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25 January 2013


Shine, Daisy, shine

DAISY, a splendid senior member of our congregation here in Thatcham, died recently, slipping into eternity during her sleep - "a lovely way to go", her daughter said at the funeral. She was born in the East End of London before the war - when it was very much like Call the Midwife - and retained a true cockney chirpiness to the end of her life. The congregation turned out in force to commend her to the Lord whom she had known and served from childhood.

If I had to present evidence to someone who was sceptical about what Christian faith really means, Daisy's funeral would do perfectly. It was utterly without pretence, overflowing with humanity and love. Her inseparable friend, Patsy, spoke simply and movingly. (They had spent a lot of time laughing and giggling together, although not when they solemnly took up the elements for holy communion.) Two years ago, they decided to go to Spring Harvest (not many octogenarians do that, I suspect), and drained every ounce of enjoyment out of that, too.

Not surprisingly, all the "hymns" at her funeral were worship songs (including, pace John Fenton, "Shine, Jesus, shine"), and the coffin left the church to the voice of Cliff Richard. Daisy was definitely of the '60s era.

For the record, "Shine, Jesus, shine" was, on this particular occasion, exactly the right choice. Daisy's presence shone among us. We sang our hearts out to send her to heaven, and in the process some of us, I suspect, got a glimpse of it ourselves.

The train now standing

PREACHING in London, at Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, I was reminded of the perils of travelling by railway on a Sunday. Present- ing myself at our local station to catch the 9 a.m. train for London, I found that it was only going to Reading. When I got to Reading, I discovered a station in total chaos.

It is being "refurbished" - to be converted into a shopping mall, by the look of it - and only two platforms out of ten were in operation. Not only that, but flooding had virtually cut off the western bit of First Great Western. Platform announcements were frequent, but contradictory. Finally, we were told that a train would leave for Paddington from platform 9. It was described as "the delayed 9.41": the time was now 10.20. Nevertheless, hearts on the packed platform were cheered.

But another platform announcement dispelled such euphoria. The "delayed 9.41" would now arrive at platform 7. A great surge of humanity headed for the stairs and across the bridge - some dragging enormous suitcases, others trying to manage children and buggies, or desperately struggling with walking sticks. The train was already full, but we all piled in, and eventually, incredibly, we arrived at Paddington.

The time was 10.50, and I was due to preach at the 11 a.m. eucharist. I was lucky to get a taxi with an ingenious driver, who weaved his way through narrow back streets to get me to the church by ten past.

Thank you for the music

AT HOLY TRINITY, a verger was at the door, waiting for me. "It's all right," he whispered, "the choir is singing the Gloria." (It's the sort of church where the Gloria can take quite a long while.)

Indeed, by the time it ended, I was robed and in my seat. The collect, epistle, and Gospel gave me time to get my breath back, and then it was up into the pulpit.

My host and old friend Rob Gillion thought it was all quite funny, and I suppose it was. But there is nothing funny about a transport system that regards anyone who chooses to use it on a Sunday as asking for trouble.

Showers of blessings

THE Saturday after Christmas, I was taking a wedding in a country church near by (no trains required). Things started badly. I had got the wrong time in my diary; so it was not the bride who was late.

Nevertheless, once we got going, it was a joyful occasion, as it should be: I had prepared Lindsay for confirmation 15 years ago. We sang carols; so at least everyone knew the tunes, and the bride entered on her father's arm to the Prelude to Charpentier's Te Deum.

The only problem was the weather. The obligatory wedding pictures had to be taken in church - you could barely see through the deluge outside. It had, in fact, rained continuously for four days (it felt like 50), and the reception was to be held in a marquee in the middle of a field.

Glorious mud

AFTER the wedding, the best man was struggling with the logistics. How do you get 100 guests from the road to the marquee across what was virtually a swamp? Mud, mud, glorious mud might indeed cool the blood, as Flanders and Swann claimed, but it is no friend of high-heeled white wedding shoes.

He was compiling a list of available four-wheel-drive vehicles to provide a shuttle service across the field. "Mind you," he said gloomily, "if it goes on raining like this, we'll probably get marooned there until New Year."

For the record, it all went well. And an email from the honeymoon couple told me that such things apparently just make the event more memorable.

Canon David Winter is a retired cleric in the diocese of Oxford, and a former head of religious broadcasting at the BBC.



Fri 20 May @ 02:55
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