Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent beginnings

The Advent call to wake up took a strange turn for us last night. Having gone to bed early, I was not finding it easy to settle. Our house is in a quiet setting with mostly remote background noise, odd sounds from outside closer to home are just a little bit unsettling. I heard a man talking outside into a mobile phone, and a dog barking. I peeped out of the window and saw one of the neighbours down below. His sturdy white hound was standing on our drive, barking into the dark corner of the Square, just beyond us. I returned to bed, then minutes later, there was the sound of a car and raised voices. A silver Merc that had been parked down the road a little was driving at low speed, headlights full on illuminating a man walking in front bearing a riding crop, lashing out at another younger man, driving him on with dark threats. This turned into a chase the length of the Square.

From time to time there have been burglars and prowlers in the vicinity. I think younger more agile guys take a short cut across the neighbouring convent garden, climb over the wall and slip through one of the houses opposite into the back lane exiting on to North Road. Such occasonal pedestrian traffic may not all be mischevious in nature, but it sure does annoy some folk hereabouts. "The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." I thought to myself, bemused, as I tried to relax back into sleep. I heard most of the remaining hour chimes until the alarm went off to get me up for the early service.

Yesterday the third international rugby match of the autumn season filled the Millennium Stadium with 70,000 spectators yet again. The streets were impressively clean by the time I arrived at church for the eight o'clock. There was relatively little rubbish dumped in the area either side of the steps leading into the west porch. The same was also true on the occasion of the other two matches. Admittedly lots of rain probably kept fans indoors more than usual before and after, but everywhere was much cleaner.

Maybe our re-furbished streets and the Council's efforts to provide additional bins, and rubbish clearance are finally paying off. Certainly the cleansing team should be praised for their zeal and effectiveness. The theory is that better a place looks, the less likely visitors will be indifferent to its condition. Theory will be put to the test in earnest when the spring season of home internationals arrives, hopefully in better weather, and large numbers will be standing outdoors drinking before and after the match. Will cleansing services get overwhelmed by public slovenliness then?

The day's miserable weather undoubtedly helped diminish numbers by 20%. The casual drop-in attenders were missing - the first to be deterred by rain or cold. This evening's Advent Carol service went very well. Most of the regulars were there, plus lots of bell ringers. At the end of the service, I felt content, with no sense of regret. What struck me was not that it was my last Advent Sunday at St John's, but rather that sense of continuity which occasions like this give to the life of the church. I am glad and proud to have taken my place in the long stream of public witness that flows here from century to century.

Where I'll be next Advent, heaven only knows. It's all part of the adventure which faith proposes to us at every stage of life.

No comments: