DO YOU EVER GET FED UP with Church? – asked one of the lovely souls at Jean’s Funeral Tea in the Church Hall this afternoon. “You know, with having to smile all the time and be kind to everyone, knowing that you can’t please all of the people all of the time? It must feel like being the Queen sometimes. You know? Can’t win.”
I was thrilled to bits with “like being the Queen” – who, of course, can and does win, every day …
Yes, I said. Of course I get fed up – with bureaucracy, with the self-interested and the self-certain, with those who actively seek to crowd out the needs of others, with noisy, overly-opinionated and hyperactive people. I get fed up with selfishness and with the self-righteous. I get fed up with the people who claim to follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth but who’d be horrified by his inclusive generosity close up. But I also remember, many years after hearing him, the man who asked the question “Why are the clergy so damned awful, my Lord?” – to which my old bishop replied (graciously, and with his customary twinkle) – “Well, because we’ve only people like you to choose from”. Can you picture the questioner’s face?
Yes, I get fed up with Church sometimes. Quite often, if I’m really honest. But never on occasions like Jean’s funeral. Gatherings like this one remind me that the world is full of quiet, gentle, thoughtful people like Jean – who raised a family, was a universally respected Guide leader for over 40 years, and a person who loved the quiet concentration and stillness that embroidery requires. Such people craft contentment and they model the best possible vision of the reign of God. They cheer me. And Jean would have smiled at teatime … it’s fitting that the Vicar’s tea-time plate bears only a modest selection. Mine did. But the tuna sandwiches and the seriously good sausage roll required a return to the table.
Yes. Fed up sometimes, just like anyone else. But cheered on and cheered up by faithful churchgoing people like Jean Baskerville.