Very aware that, heaning mislet that I am, I’ve probably given the impression that my exchanges with St M’s people at Rydal were uniformly unsatisfactory, and left me drafting letters of resignation.
Not so, I promise.
There were lots of good opportunities to get to know people a little better, and it was lovely to see the way those who live alone revelled in the opportunity for company on tap while car drivers noticed and cared for those who might be stuck without transport, and people enjoyed coming together each evening with traveller’s tales of the day. One startling success was a session that invited us to share a poem or piece of recorded music. There was a bravura performance of the U.A.Fanthorpe poem Not my best side, some happily familiar excursions into Belloc’s Cautionary Tales and a breathtaking setting by Kenneth Leighton of Phineas Fletcher’s Drop, drop slow tears (chosen by the vicar).I’ve long loved those words…especially the implicit image of the rainbow which I always sense behind the final line “Nor let His eyes see sin, but through my tears”.
My contribution to the evening, with typical lack of preparation, was to grab the one CD I would pluck from the flames if cataclysm struck the curate’s house. It’s Bach’s B Minor Mass, so there followed the agonising choice of a single movement to hear in isolation. In my one and only sustained conversation with Rowan Williams (over pudding at an Aff Cath supper when he was newly appointed Archbishop of Wales) we agreed that if we had to offer God one musical work in justification for western civilisation, then this would be it.….and, equally, I felt that it was a pretty convincing window onto the eternal, a proof of God’s existence to present to sceptics. But which movement?? Impossible choice! In the end I opted for the Et Resurrexit, which always takes me straight to Kings Chapel where I first sang it with CUMS twenty three years ago. The sheer energy of those baroque trumpets has never failed to enthuse and inspire me, in the most unlikely situations, and Tuesday night was no exception.
Another high point was the final Eucharist, which we celebrated in the round, communicating each other. Nothing too revolutionary there for most congregations, but it felt like quite a risk in this context, particularly as we dared to use real bread! Amazingly, lightning failed to strike!
And it was during the Eucharist that I had a wonderful moment of affirmation of my priesthood, from the RC wife of our former Church Warden. She is strongly committed to her own church, so chose to observe the official line and not take the Sacrament,- but as we stood she came over to me and asked for a blessing. Sometimes this ministry is such a privilege, it takes my breath away…