Sunday, January 24, 2010

Welcoming the world, as usual

We were joined at the eight o'clock Eucharist this morning by a young woman from Malaysia who has come to work at Cardiff University's financial administration department on secondment from her home university for three months. She must have been exploring the city early in the morning, as she'd be used to doing back home, to find a place of worship. Main services in tropical regions often take place early in the day while it is cooler. Our cold damp climate must be a shock for her.

At the ten o'clock Eucharist we welcomed Sophie Anna Purvis into church. She was baptized last Sunday in her daddy's parish church outside Preston. Her Romanian granny was there as well as her English grandparents. Recently, a tall quiet foreign student has been sharing in this service, but I didn't have the opportunity to catch him for a conversation until now. This week he arrived with a girl friend - his fiancée - who'd come to join him for the weekend from Marseille where they live. I had the pleasure of chatting to them both in French after the service, and was pleased to learn that he had found himself comfortably at home chez nous, although our style is probably more traditional than what he's used to back home. There were also an African couple the congregation that I hadn't seen before, but they slipped out before I could greet them.

The hand out of the electoral roll renewal application forms plus the skills audit forms began after the service and quite soon, several people told me they were not going to complete the skills audit forms - and this was from skilled and already highly committed people, suspicious of the intention, fearful that they might get called upon to volunteer in situations beyond the call of duty. It's not much fun for the elderly either, who feel there's little they are fit for any longer. Getting them to accept that their prayers and encouragement of others, the memories and wisdom are valuable is enough of a challenge, and for the most part the value of their assets is rooted in the local community they are part of.

Now maybe there are many people who are only too keen to offer their services and go far afield to help others. The Community Volunteer Service scheme suggests there is. But this model does not work for everyone. There are few keenly committed people who don't already feel that they are overstretched. The church is so short of people generally these days that there's hardly an occasion when anyone competes with others to do a job or run for office in church.

After lunch, I look Communion first to Hilda, and then to Margaret, who has just moved in to a convalescent home for a few weeks to support her when her plaster comes off and she has to do the phyisiotherapy. Just after I arrived Pauline and Norma from church turned up, and joined in prayer with us. Afterwards, all the talk was of organising a 90th birthday celebration next week for Margaret, who had planned a lunch for all her many friends before she fell and broke some bones in her foot on Christmas Eve. It was good to see her in good form, enthusiastic about life as ever. You'd think she was twenty years younger than she really is. A great inspiration to us all.

After Evensong, a chance finally to catch up with 'Slumdog Millionaire' on Channel Four, a real masterpiece of a film, rich with social comment and observation about poverty, modernity and India.

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