The fate of the fête
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
Simon Parke is game for drawing parallels between two well-known events
CHURCH fêtes are very similar to the Olympic games — regular, if not
frequent events, a lot of hard work, not necessarily as good as last time, but
probably worth it in the end.
Church fêtes and the Olympic games set people up for unplanned, and often
unlikely, encounters. They remind us that all relationships are exotic, but
passing, and therefore to be much wondered at, but not taken too seriously. And
isn’t it so good just to meet people away from our normal "rat-runs" of
I’m sorry, but I’ve just remembered that not all meetings away from our
normal means of relating are good, and as evidence, I name and shame the
ecumenical services we used to have when I was at theological college.
The two rival teams gathered in a "neutral" church (though, let’s be honest,
no church can really make such claims) and spent the next 90 minutes together
doing everything differently.
We had the preacher to put our side of things, but they had the president at
the eucharist and, my goodness, he gave as good as he got.
They stood when we knelt; we stood when they sat. Whose idea was it to
gather in a place where we could only share our differences? If we’d worked an
allotment together, everything would have been fine.
So, it all depends on how you meet, but I still maintain that church fêtes
and the Olympic games are generally good things. They both need their freaks,
Church fêtes need Mr Wilkinson, anally awkward for much of the year, to come
and do his miracle with the bunting. He won’t be helped, but he won’t be
distracted, either. He clears up afterwards, as well. It’s the one day of the
year you are grateful for him.
Similarly, the Olympic games need people who have spent their entire lives
in sweaty gyms with chalky hands, big belts, and heavy weights, thrusting as
appropriate, and all so that we can be entertained in a fashion while waiting
for the football season to start.
The Olympic games have gold, silver and bronze medals, which are very grand,
but then church fêtes have Thelma’s plum jam, and the scouts’ chocolate and
banana tea cakes, so it’s probably evens there. After all, you can’t eat a
medal, whatever its colour! Though, come to think of it, you can’t eat scouts’
A long time ago, in Liverpool, a vicar organised a church fête, at which two
boys met for the first time, and discovered they liked the same sort of music.
I don’t know what happened to them after that.
The Revd Simon Parke was formerly Vicar of St George’s, Tufnell Park,