Loitering with intent
WE MAY not have had a family summer holiday this year, but, for one reason or another, over the past few weeks I have been pinging around the country like a human pinball.
On one trip I was making my way home past Exeter; so I decided to drop in to the cathedral. It was a hot day, and the grounds were busy with picnickers, late-summer tourists, a “Refugees for Devon” rally, and quite a few anxious-looking families with teenage children.
Watching the mothers fussing around their offspring, I realised that I was witnessing the emotionally fraught few hours before the parents handed their children over to the University of Exeter and the pleasures and perils of freshers’ week.
As Number 3 Son also starts university this year, I felt a stab of empathy. Once inside the cathedral, I left a prayer request, and lit a candle for all those going through this rite of passage. While I was there, I discovered that that day’s choral evensong would include the welcome and installation of the Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally.
I sneaked a quick look at the service booklet, and was amused to find that, before the procession could leave the Chapter House to make its way to the cathedral, the verger would be required to check for “contumacious persons”. I wondered what would happen if the verger spotted anyone likely to be “stubbornly or wilfully disobedient to authority” loitering outside the cathedral.
Thinking of all the fledgling students who were on the green, I could not suppress my laughter, much to the surprise of a passing tourist. As I left the cathedral, I saw her pick up a booklet, no doubt looking for the cause of my delight.
Notes on a motorway
FOR reasons too labyrinthine to explain, I had arranged to pick up Number 2 Son from a certain M6 service station on my way home. All was going well until I realised that there was no traffic on the southbound carriageway, and the “Queue Ahead” signs started flashing.
Soon, I found myself parked in solid traffic; so, having discovered that the hold-up was caused by escaped livestock on the southbound carriageway, I texted Number 2 Son to say I would be late, rolled down my window, and enjoyed the rare experience of listening to birdsong on the motorway.
I later learned that, somewhere in the same traffic jam, others were being treated to an impromptu performance of Pachelbel’s Canon by a string quartet on their way home from playing at a wedding in Cornwall. That must have been wonderful, but I was quite content with being serenaded by my mellifluous blackbird.
Raindrops keep falling
THE lead from the roof of our church porch is probably lying in a ditch somewhere. Unless the thieves stole it to order, the chances of their selling it on are small, as it is marked with a forensic code registered to the church, which means that reputable scrap merchants will not buy it.
I suppose we are fortunate, as it has been several years since our last lead-theft; but it still rankles. On being told of the theft, one elderly member of the congregation declared: “May all their eggs go rotten and their milk go sour!”
It is not the forgiving attitude that we try to foster at St Andrew’s, but, standing under the porch listening to the Yorkshire rain beat down on the temporary tarpaulin, and wondering about the cost of repair, it was hard not to feel somewhat negative about the thieves.
ON A happier note, our central-nave reordering is in full swing, and the new space is beginning to take shape.
Three front pews on either side have been removed, and the pew platform taken out, which will give us much more flexible space in front of our nave altar. An area of the north aisle is also being levelled, allowing our choir and musicians more space, and making it less likely that they will trip or fall.
Both developments will enhance our use of the building for worship and social events. As someone who has to navigate my mother around the church in a wheelchair, I am looking forward to freer access to the nave altar, and not having to park mum side-on to receive communion.
The reordering process is being documented daily on our Facebook page, and we have been amazed at the transformation already visible. The PCC has chosen natural stone to replace the areas of concrete pew-platform, which have been removed, and, as this has been laid, a new sense of light and space has become apparent in the nave.
At the moment, we are enjoying the greater intimacy of worshipping in the chancel once again, but we are all hoping to celebrate our Harvest Festival in the newly reordered nave.
Following the leader
I HAVE been around church circles for quite a few years now, and have experienced — and, in some cases, endured — a good number of “discipleship courses”. I am sure that many of you will have had similar experiences, as such courses are a distinctly mixed bag.
We have started using the Pilgrim Course here at St Andrew’s, however, and we have found it to be an excellent resource. The feedback from participants overwhelmingly has been positive. The writers seem to have managed to come up with a course that meets participants’ needs without talking down to them, dictating to them, or bamboozling them with theology — no mean feat in a discipleship course.
Elizabeth Figg is married to the Vicar of Kildwick, North Yorkshire.