The Rector telephoned last week, to ask if I would speak in church on Sunday morning. Once a month, there is a feature at the beginning of the service, where she interviews someone from the congregation up at the front, about their working lifeoutside of church. It helps people to get to know each other and also to be able to more effectively offer prayer for each other.
Conversation in the space of my own taxi is one thing – even when customers raise subjects of a most personal and often even intimate nature. But conversation on a stage, holding a radio microphone close enough to my mouth to be heard, with the sound of my own voice booming all around and a hundred or so people looking right at me, is another thing entirely. It is not usually for the feint hearted.
However if someone in authority whom I respect makes a suggestion that perhaps I might have something to offer the wider group of brothers and sisters, then it definitely should be considered. All the best parish priests I have ever known have been enablers of their congregants gifts for the greater good. Though I am my own worst critic, it seemed to go quite well, mostly managing to resist the natural tendency to speak fast, to get it over with and looking up occasionally, into the sea of faces to see three or four familiar ones, smiling back at me. That always helps.
It is not even as if I have never done it before. On several previous occasions in the last two decades, I have been called on to deliver eulogies at the funeral services of those who have been close to me: family members and long standing friends. But each occasion is different.
On one occasion, I was delivering the eulogy for my Grandmother, at a crematorium where there was a warning on the lectern not to exceed thirty minutes service time and a digital clock, counting down the minutes and seconds. For me, the worst possible thing to see, but for the professional minister, perhaps helpful.
After every regular service on a Sunday morning, there is the traditional after church coffee. Such social occasions in a large group of people do not come easy to me. As a friend in the United States pertinently asked last month "Is it the coffee we love or just holding the cups?" The holding of the coffee cup is essential for those introverted souls among us to be able to cope with a large gathering of people.
Moreover, the after church coffee is almost as important as the actual act of worship which has preceded it. As we are taught in the Bible, we the believers are the body of Christ on earth and therefore an effort should really be made.
As published in the Herald Series (Abingdon, Didcot, Grove, Wantage, Wallingford) on Wednesday, 14 December 2016