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18 July 2014

by John Wall


A bevy for the Bevy

I WENT to a beer festival a little while ago. Now I'm more of a G&T or Pinot Grigio type of cleric generally, but I loved it. I was there helping out on a stall for the Bevy, the pub/hub/café we've been trying to reopen in Moulsecoomb (Diary, 11 January 2013), closed some three years ago by the police because of drugs and violence. (We're almost there, after a £130,000 grant from the lovely Social Investment Business Group. Hurrah! Mine's a pint of Bishop's Finger when it opens.)

My chat-up line to the beer-supping punters was: "Hello - fancy buying a pub?", and, on the night, we added some £2500 to the coffers. None through my efforts, I fear, as most of my clients wanted to discuss why they were born-again atheists: the occupational hazard of dog-collar-wearing in such venues.


Crushing retort

HAVING done my front-of-house stint on the stall, I started wandering round the cavernous rooms of Hove Town Hall clutching my CAMRA beer glass, wondering how to sift through the 200 or so beers on offer, finally deciding to sample those with a vaguely religious theme.

I started off with a half pint of Cross Keys Bitter from Rectory Ales, brewed by the Revd Godfrey Broster of Plumpton Green, who for years has had a micro-brewery at his parsonage nestling in the downs. Many church fêtes, inductions, and farewells have been graced by a keg or two of Godfrey's alchemy, as well as a fair number of Sussex pubs. Now with a niche in Harveys Brewery, in Lewes, this "man of the froth", as the Daily Express once called him, is a feature of local brewing lore.

Fortified by this, I went for a further third of a pint of Absolution from Abbeydale, in Sheffield, "with aromas of tropical fruit and mangoes", followed by Black Bishop, "black treacle character combined with citrus and spice". Even my liberal tendencies baulked, however, at trying Black Mass, despite its enticing description of "strong flavours of bitter chocolate, fruitcake, raisins, and hints of cherry".

I sampled Black Jesus, from Great Heck, in Yorkshire; Golden Angel, from East Hoathely, in West Sussex; and Wild Heaven, from Arundel. But my favourite? Decadence, from Brewster's Ales, in Lincolnshire: "passion fruit and grapefruit aromas on the nose; first taste gives a zesty hop palate leading on to a fresh herby finish."

I trundled off cheerily into the night; but was rather nonplussed to hear a man on the bus holding forth in tones of derision: "Did you see that stall for a pub in Moulsecoomb? What's the point? It'll be smashed up within a fortnight."

I leant over. "Excuse me," I said, smiling sweetly, "I couldn't help overhearing you: I was on that stall and am part of the community: there is a real sense of local pride and common ownership in this project, and it'll work really well. Mind you, there are indeed people you don't mess with in Moulsecoomb"- here my face was wreathed with another smile - "and the Vicar's one of them."

He got off at the next stop.


Reliable, trustworthy

I HAVE just written a reference for a Yellowcoat. A former member of my choir has taken time out from doing a music degree at university to work at a holiday camp - it will suit him down to the ground. But it made me reflect on all the references I've supplied over the years, ranging from care workers to ordinands, charity workers to top-level government security officers, school applications to senior clergy appointments.

But the standard one is the ASDA request from young members of the congregation for their first job. I write a glowing reference; before you know it, they're working on a Sunday, and then soon out in the wide blue post-church yonder. It's even more of a rite of passage than confirmation, itself often called the "passing out parade".

But whenever I do a reference, I always remember one of the last ever done about me, written by my theological college principal, Father/later Bishop/now Monsignor Barnes. I made him rewrite it twice on his "sit up and beg" typewriter, which, in hindsight, was hugely kind of him.

I remember saying to him at the time: "From now on, I'll be writing reports on other people. I hope I always remember how horrible it feels." And I have.

The Revd John Wall is Team Rector in the Moulsecoomb Team Ministry in Brighton.

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