Belonging and community

Often in my taxi, I am asked about football, as an opening conversational gambit. These days, it is one of few things which I can't really discuss with any degree of passion, although it is something about which it is often presumed that I can. 

Years ago, I used to attend football matches, but those were the days of racism and aggression and fighting.

Whether there is a football match on or not can have a noticeable effect on levels of income in the taxi.  Sizeable numbers of people travel from Abingdon to watch Oxford United play at the Kassam Stadium, or elsewhere in the country and a taxi is often the first and the last part of their journey.   

In the early hours of Sunday, I took two men from Abingdon to Didcot, who earlier that day had been to watch football in Northampton. It had been an odyssey of more than twelve hours, involving quite a bit of drinking and discussion, afterwards. For them, expenditure of more than £200, on an enjoyable day spent with their friends is more than worth it. 

People’s dedication to their football club is palpable. They speak of us and we and they are part of something greater than themselves, rather than passive consumers of a form of entertainment. There is a sense of belonging.  

Just like my customers, who every Saturday religiously go to the football, community is nonetheless important, especially so for someone like me, who is doggedly and stubbornly independent.  

For years I had avoided going into the church vestry, for fear of being signed up to the commitment of a church rota and having to turn up every Sunday, rather than rolling up late and trying to creep in unnoticed, at the back.

But in 2018, I found myself on a church rota, the training session for which was this last Sunday, on the job, preparing for an actual service.  With kindness and grace, I was shown the correct way of setting out the Lord's table for Holy Communion. 

And there was something transcendental about standing there, quietly working, as the church was filling up with sisters and brothers, about to partake of something which is both ordinary and extraordinary, every time it is celebrated.  

A newly-qualified priest, with whom I prayed in my taxi once, said to me "you need to find a church where they love you". After years of travel and years of searching, it is surprisingly joyful to be able to contribute something of myself to something greater than myself. 

But it’s still better not to ask me about football in my taxi. Transubstantiation, though, is a different matter. 

 

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 28 February 2018