Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mothering Sunday

We had a baptism at this morning's Parish Eucharist of Mary Jones' great grandson Thomas. The normal congregation was more than doubled, and it was a lively occasion, made even more of a challenge to handle by the unforeseen absence of two key people who make our main Sunday service happen. I had to make sure that all their normally un-noticed tasks were done to make things work, and I was only 99% successful, which kept me on the alert. Nevertheless it was a happy occasion and I don't suppose many will have noticed the things that caused me discomfort.

I was delighted because Dinah the young Malaysian woman who has been attending the eight o'clock Eucharist in recent months came to the ten o'clock for a change, and experienced the full warmth and vigour of a pastoral occasion she easily recognised from her church experience back home. Like many from outside UK, she was confused by the tradition of Mothering Sunday, as opposed to the internationally marketed Mothers Day, generally in May. She said she'd rung home and her mother was bewildered by this early greeting, so a full explanation of the British 'mothering' tradition was gretefully accepted. We also welcomed a young Chemistry post-graduate Italian student called Chiara who'd somehow discovered us recently. That's the great thing about being an open church in the middle of the city, you meet people of all ages and cultures as a matter of course. And it makes our regular congregational members happy indeed.

In the evening before delivering my fourth Lent Talk and singing Compline, I was inwardly grieving /whingeing a little at the poor and irregular attendance for this occasion. Admittedly, I make the texts available in advance, plus a printable booklet, but like every orator I crave a decent audience. We were fifteen. the usual dozen familiar patient faces, and three visitors.

Two ladies were with us from a parish near Burton on Trent for an away football match supporters weekend. After the service they stayed to chat. As my maternal grandparents had lived in Burton on Trent in their old age before illness and infirmity compelled them to surrender their home to come and live with us, there was a special point of conact between us.

My address had caught their imagination, as they were facing the challenge of renewing their own parish outreach into the community by adapting their buildings for more diverse usage. The question was how to underpin this at a spiritual level? I had been talking about the notion of being 'church for others', which I've lived with for forty years, but still comes afresh to some, much to my surprise. I told them the story of how St John's Tea Room had educated church members in pastoral mission in the most unexpected of ways. With another couple of days to their visit, they determined to come back and investigate for themselves. Their genuine interest served as a fulsome reproach to my tendency to self pity.

The conversation meant that I was a late arrival at the Friends committee meeting. However, it was well steered by Vanessa, and I was gratefully home by ten past eight.

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