To search in vain

In the morning our preacher took the Gospel. Jesus, he told us, did not quite mean what he said. Or if he did, on this question of forgiveness St Paul was probably a better guide.

I resolved to try somewhere else in the evening. Round here Evensong is almost a lost cause; three phone calls failed to raise even a second best. Never mind, it's ages since we visited that new place about twenty minutes' walk away. They are bound to have something.

Sure enough, the door is open. Three Africans just inside. They, however, are just leaving after their rhythmic ethnic afternoon. ‘Is there an evening service?' 'Don't know.' Time goes by, but the Methodists are almost opposite. Surely here…? Scaffolding, locked doors, no lights. Next stop the ancient parish church presenting a similar dark silence. I am beginning to have of a loo.

There is just time to hurry to the next parish, with its prime site, distinctive tower and Restoration Appeal. Here I don't bother to ask the emerging Nigerians. 6.30 has come and almost gone.

One final shot remains. If all else fails, try the cathedral. I shall not even consult the board, but enter if the door is open, for meditation, mass, or magic. But hooray and amen, it's a 'traditional Eucharist'! I have missed one hymn and two collects, but I hear the Epistle and sing George Herbert's wonderful 'The God of love my Shepherd is'. The last time I did that was at my mother's funeral eighteen years ago this week. I need not discuss here the gender of the celebrant, nor the liberties taken with Cranmer. I am ill-prepared in any case, so I do not draw near with faith; at least, not liturgically. But what saith the preacher? Behold Paul got it wrong too! His recipe was repression; not the way to sexual fulfilment and healing at all. In the name of the Father, etc.

The net conclusion from Sunday's menu of Christian teaching was that you really cannot trust these chaps in the Bible. Jesus and Paul just hadn't got it. And speaking of gender, the hand-dryer in the Gents doesn't work either.

CI

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