Jerusalem: imprinted on my soul

Amid the tedious waiting which makes up more than half the time of a small-town taxi driver, bookings will occasionally turn up on screen which show the glorious randomness which almost make the time waiting to do the work worthwhile. 

Out of the blue on Friday afternoon came a job to take a customer to Luton Airport, once a municipal airport associated with a 1970s television commercial for the alcoholic liqueur Campari. These days, it is still municipally owned, but goes by the rather grander name of London Luton Airport. 
With this job still pending, I had then been asked to undertake another "quick" fare, from one side of Abingdon to the other.  It should have been over in minutes, but took half an hour and eventuated in me climbing through the back of an open hatchback of the customer's friend's car to retrieve their glasses, because they had been lost, along with car and house keys. 
The keys I later found in the already open back door of the car.  A promising fare taking several hours could have gone, but was saved in the nick of time. 

On arrival at Luton, I found the charge for dropping off passengers is now £3 for up to ten minutes. It is an outrageous enough charge, but it is reprehensible that hard working self-employed taxi drivers have to pay this at all, as we are bringing people to the airport, who are going to spend money there. 
More than anything else though, Luton Airport reminds me of the time I flew from there with a motley group of pilgrims to The Holy Land - now nearly two years ago and imprinted on my soul forever. 

East Jerusalem Central Bus Station, Sultan Suleiman Street, Jerusalem "They came to a place called Golgotha"

East Jerusalem Central Bus Station, Sultan Suleiman Street, Jerusalem "They came to a place called Golgotha"

And especially I thought of a time late one Saturday afternoon, in Jerusalem, in a beautiful garden, located behind a bus station, when my friend was presiding at a service of Holy Communion in the open air, to the sound of explosions and gunfire going off repeatedly over the Old City. 
The Peace is an odd and entirely apposite kind of interlude to a Communion service, coming as it does before the most solemn part of proceedings. 
Sat in the congregation visibly upset and to the sound of ascending prayer from other groups, my fellow pilgrim sat next to me said "those are real bullets going off you know, you can tell by the sound," something previously unknown to me. 
Being good Anglicans, we would usually just shake hands with our immediate neighbours, but something quite extraordinary happened – with tears in our eyes, we all hugged each other and to the ongoing sound of explosions, my friend kept going, finished the service and she did not flinch at all. 
It was in the finest traditions of a priest of the Church of England, the most explicit act of leadership I have ever witnessed, in a lifetime of church going. 
And it all began in inauspicious circumstances at Luton Airport.

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday 23 August 2017

  1. YouTube "Were you truly wafted here from Paradise?" "No Luton Airport", retrieved 22 August 2017
  2. Matthew 27:33
  3. The Garden Tomb (Jerusalem) Association, web site, retrieved 22 August 2017