Where my father lives, there are two villages close together and one rector covers both. This means that 8.00am communion, which my father habitually attends in order to avoid a sermon, alternates – week by week – between the two.
My father was up at 6.30am this morning, a bit earlier than normal, because today is his village’s turn for the 8.00am service and – as occurs occasionally – it has fallen to him to read the service.
He is what I suppose might be termed as an old-style Church of England attender. That is to say, he believes in God, regards Roman Catholics as ‘left footers’, says his prayers beside his bed every night, and holds to traditional ‘eye for an eye’ justice. He cannot, for the life of him, accept that terrorists who commit atrocities – or indeed murderers and ‘feeder-files’ (as he refers to them) generally – should not be subjected to capital punishment, if only because he fails to see why the taxpayer should have to foot the £1,000 per week bill to keep them in prison for life, or what passes for ‘life’ (six or seven years?) under the modern British judicial system.
Yesterday I found him in the drawing room, examining his Bible in preparation for today’s reading, which is to be a passage from St Paul’s letter to the Galitians. He read it to me and then commented “I haven’t the foggiest idea what that’s getting at …”
I then began reading my newspaper, whilst he continued his rehearsal. Finally, he looked up and commented:
“One thing that struck me is that St Paul was writing all these letters – to the Galitians, the Ephesians and the Corinthians – and yet none of the buggers ever wrote back to him”.
He will be off to church soon. I hope the priest, a new, much younger, chap than the previous one, has learned his lesson after the incident that occurred the last time that my father was at the lectern.
As my father entered the church, the priest approached him, told him that sadly the passage he had been booked to read was the wrong one for that particular Sunday (part of Advent?) and that therefore my father would have to read something quite different.
“Sorry, rector …”, replied my father, “… this is the one I’ve been practising, and this is the one you’re going to get”.
The rector, wisely in my view, just held his tongue and got on with the service.