Tonight I should be busily lighting the candles given in memory of so many, to lend Valley Church a beautiful welcoming glow for those arriving for our annual service of Carols by Candelight.
I might be playing the piano so the choir could have one last run through of their two solo carols.
I would surely be scanning arrivals anxiously until all the readers were safely in church, armed with their readings and primed to end each, in the approved Kings fashion
"Thanks be to God".
But I'm not.
Instead I'm at my desk, drinking hot ginger and waiting the return of my menfolk, who sallied forth a couple of hours ago in search of a Christmas tree. It's bitterly cold out there, so by rights I should be purring gently at finding myself indoors with a cat at my feet....but instead I'm more than a little miserable, since I'm only here because our carol service has been cancelled.
I accept that my judgement on these matters may be somewhat skewed.
Yesterday I drove some 50 miles in the worst conditions I have ever experience on UK roads, in order to officiate at the wedding of a very dear friend. Even in a Volvo with snow chains fitted it was quite an alarming ride, but once I knew that the couple intended to go ahead nothing on earth would have kept me away. Plans had to be changed as 10" snow made the reception venue impossible, the groom was 2 hours late, as a 45 minute journey took him something like 4 hours and there were gaps among the guests, of course, but all of us there were united in our love for the couple and our determination to celebrate with them on this happiest of days.
Our commitment to friendship was not going to be shaken by the difficulties of getting to a country church in the worst snow for years. We really wanted to be there.
Meanwhile, the snow-struck congregation at church in the valley this morning was doubled in size by the presence of a family - three generations gathered from far and wide to dedicate a memorial in memory of a grandfather and uncle who now lie in our church-yard. Some had come from villages on the hills around Stroud, some from much further afield but they were all there, full of good humoured tales of hazardous journeys, to support one another and honour their dead. When it was announced that there would be no coffee today because there was no milk, they cheerfully helped me make black coffee and offered it to those of the regular church family who made it into the hall.Of course we could have rescheduled the dedication for a warmer time, but they wanted to be there today, having made a commitment to one another and to their dead.
Given these two examples of determination in the face of whatever the weather might bring, it's not really surprising that I feel a bit grumpy at the cancellation of our Carol Service. In comparison with conditions yesterday, things really aren't that bad here. Of course I understand that nobody wants to put elderly bones at risk...and it would be truly awful if one of the group of once-a-year attenders slipped on the way to the service and did themselves harm but what saddens me is how very ready everyone was to abandon the service - and just how few of our core congregation actually got here this morning. There was a crucial PCC vote after the service, or I fear that numbers would have been even worse...
I know it's not fair to draw comparisons...I realise that I'm in danger of grossly oversimplifying and adding 2 and 2 to make 5 - but it's tempting to make assumptions about priorities that are profoundly discouraging.
Of course worship is not all about church, and being an hospitable church community can happen on any day of the year, not just at the carol service...but still and all, there are questions around tonight that I'd just as soon not have to answer.
One of the things that the community loves about valley church at Christmas is the star that appears, miraculously, atop the tower - the gift of a local family who not only construct it annually, but also get it safely into place.
On Friday afternoon it was shining out proud and confident.
Today the snow had obviously led to some bulbs blowing - the framework is there but only one bulb is alight. To say it looks half-hearted would be a definite overstatement.