Considering that at least seventy thousand people came into Cardiff today around the event of the Carling Cup final, services were attended by the usual numbers of people. The earlier timing of the main Sung Eucharist poses little problem on match days now that worshippers have got used to it.
At eight o'clock, two lads, looking as if they'd been out all night clubbing, or maybe travelling a long way overnight to watch Arsenal play Chelsea, came in as the service started, wandered up to the chancel and peered in. I welcomed them and invited them to be seated. The entered, and sat for a few moments, then upped and left without a word as the Old Testament Lesson started to be read, leaving behind them only an odour of stale cigarette smoke. Well, at least they didn't mouth obscenities on departure, as did the last interloper at eight o'clock, six months ago.
Andrew Thomas, an ordinand at St Michael's Llandaff, on placement with me this year, preached very well at the nine thirty service. I enjoy having him around. He's an active member of the Order of St John, and still does duties regularly, despite his family and college schedule. He gives the impression of being at relaxed and at home when sharing in worship and when preaching - doing what he's meant to do with quiet confidence, and no angst - which bodes well for his future.
Mary, one of our most determined elderly regulars was taken with a bad turn during the service. Struggling with intense back pain, she was de termined to stay until Communion. I watched her being taken from her seat to the back, as the Agnus Dei was sung. Usually I take her Communion in her seat. She insists on sitting in the Mayoral pew. Or, as she would say with a twinkle in her eye, he sits in her pew, when he can be bothered to come, which is less often than she does. Instead of leaving her until last as I usually do, Andrew and I strode through the Communion rail, as the choir were making their way up, heading up to the back with the Holy Gifts, so that she wouldn't miss out if her taxi arrived while she was waiting to receive. Everyone from the choir and congregation saw and understood what we were doing. They're just like that, always looking out for each other. And, within a couple of minutes we'd resumed and Mary was taken home by two stewards.
After the Tredegarville School service, just half a dozen of us, I had to queue in traffic to get home, due to the match having just ended. Ten minutes to get there and over half an hour to return, only just in time to get down by bike to St John's for evening prayer, against the returning tide of fans walking to their coaches. Despite the deterring noisy crowds of revellers around the church, there were still eight of us to pray together. One of them was Mary. She explained that she'd sat with the pain wondering what to do next, and after a couple of hours it had disappeared completely. Being determined to have a time of worship uninterrupted by pain, she called another taxi and came down for Evening Prayer! The Spirit and a courageous will are a great combination.