Sunday, June 21, 2009

Longest day

The shortest night was made even shorter for me by a nose-bleed, a persistent little problem I've not yet managed to sort out despite medication a few months ago that reduced frequency and alarming output. Even so, I was functional for the eight o'clock service. Afterwards, Marion suggested that recurrence might be to do with dry air causing surface capilliaries to crack open - it came back in Spain. She suggested a regular anointing of nasal cavities with vaseline, something I shall try for sure.

It's a bit un-nerving preparing to take a service if you don't know if you're going to be susceptible to a nose bleed or not during the course of the action. So far, however, most of the outbreaks have been at night, or bending down to push a plug into a low socket. It's small things like this which make the necessity of working alone as a cleric into a low level nightmare. I don't hesitate to repeat - it's not what I signed up for! What if I wasn't so fortunate in being surrounded by so many kind and caring laity?

This Sunday morning's worship was somewhat out of the ordinary. The regular congregation gathered a quarter of an hour before the usual start time of the Sung Eucharist to listen to a 38 strong mixed choir Vos da Locarno from the town of the same name in the Ticino (Italian speaking Switzerland). The choir had been travelling and performing on a tight schedule. Their last morning included a tour of the Senedd and shopping before flying home, as well as a half hour visit to sing in St John's.

Their programme was a selection of choral arrangements of folk-songs from their region, beautifully performed, full of rich harmonies, evocative of the Alps. It was a wonderfully refreshing opportunity to sit, listen and savour the quiet beauty of our church, bathed in morning sunlight, before starting our Sunday celebration of the Mysteries. For once, I didn't preach. We simply sat in silence for a while, after the Gospel, bathed in light. It was an exceptional experience, and somehow it inspired lusty singing from choir and congregation during the Eucharist following, I'm tempted to do that a bit more often, but it would feel a bit like dereliction of duty, unless I could devise a more stimulating and attractive way of getting a traditional congregation to engage in reflection upon the Word. I feel we should employ the beauty and stillness of our oasis at the heart of the city, as a resource to make our worship more transparent to the presence and power of God.

Whether because of the choir visit or because it was a genuinely summery day, the congregation was on the high side of average, and included a new member from Uganda, visitors from France, Germany, Malaysia and the United States. The time it took me in between services to re-stock visitor leaflets and Christian enquiry leaflets, after my fortnight's absence, gave me an impression that our visitor numbers are well maintained this year, recession or not.

Afterwards over refreshments a visitor butted in to a conversation I was having with two others, and insisted in giving his testimony, recounting how he'd been through all Jesuit schools in childhood, plus full priestly seminary training, and that as a result he had become a lifelong atheist, and this hadn't done him any harm. Searching for something constructive to say, the best I could come up with was to say that faith grows where there is real loving community, and that institutions don't always succeed in their task of nurturing people in love because they can easily become divorced from community. But he didn't seem interested in conversation, and bade us farewell, leaving us bemused.

You never quite know what's going to happen next in St John's.

I had a snooze in the afternoon to make up for last night, then posted my holiday pictures to the internet, where the family can share them. I also posted some pictures of Santa Pola's traditional Corpus Christi procession. It's something of a local public fiesta, secular as well as sacred, inspiring to watch as well as to photograph. Those photos are to be found here

After Evensong we had a briskly paced Friends meeting, and I was home with two hours of daylight to spare.

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