We have this phrase which is sometimes said in church as part of one of the post communion prayers: “Send us out in the power of your Spirit, to live and work to your praise and glory.”
It is constantly difficult to discern exactly what that means in practice, but there could not have been a more stark transition from the sublime to the earthly, than in Wantage, at the foot of the Berkshire Downs, on Saturday afternoon on the occasion of the ordination of their new curate, by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet.
It was already apparent, when making my way through the narrow streets to the imposing yet homely parish church - in time honoured fashion late, due stopping to take photographs on the way - that this occasion was something special. For so much incense had been used that it was outside the church and permeating the very streets themselves.
Incense is not used at all in the evangelical church where I worship, but it is biblical “And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand”
An ordination held in a parish church is something quite special. It is a service which marks the transition of a person studying for the priesthood into an actual priest with the authority, amongst other things, to pronounce absolution from sin.
Despite all these years of church going, it is still to this day something of a culture shock, to move from my church which uses drums, guitars and keyboards to one which has organ music and a choir.
From this glorious intersection of Heaven and earth in Wantage, it was out, to a night of plying for hire on the streets of Abingdon. Four men approached my taxi a little after midnight, wanting a journey to a cocktail bar in Jericho. On the face of it, all four men looked fit for travel, but one had already bailed by the time I had turned the corner.
And by the time we had reached Oxford city centre, I looked in the rear view mirror, only to see the youngest passenger with his head rolled back, showing the whites of his eyes. “Mate, he doesn’t look well,” I ask his friend, “are you sure he’s ok?”
One of the passengers departed for the cocktail bar and an extension to the journey was agreed for the remaining two, back to Abingdon. Many drivers would have kicked them out at this point, as too much trouble.
Nonetheless I agreed to take them, only to have to stop three times before we had even left Oxford, for the young man to be sick in the gutter, completing the rest of the journey with the window open and the periodic advice “tell me if you want to be sick, mate, and we can stop.”
When plying for hire in a taxi at night, the glorious randomness of the British public can change everything in an instant.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday 05 July 2017