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- IF YOU CAN HOOK ME UP WITH SOMEONE OR SPONSOR A BED AND BREAKFAST THEN THAT WOULD BE GREAT)
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And I have never been to Worcester before either. I drive into the Cathedral car park. It is virtually empty. Worcester immediately strikes me as a very, very sleepy place. I pack my bag. Leave my sign, and make my way to the Cathedral and beyond to investigate a pitch, and in the so doing, pass Elgar looming over the head of the high street.
I need some food first and so stop it the Cathedral Cafe. A couple from Argyle are running it and their accents are singing. The do a cooked breakfast, full English, so its that and coffee. “Do they accept cards?” No! I only have a fiver and I can hear the eggs spitting in the Pan. Apparently there is no cash machine nearby so the guys says “Don’t worry. We will work something out.” When its cooked he brings me a fivers worth…and then some. We talk for ages. He and his wife are active Roman Catholic and apparently Worcester IS very sleepy (told you) peaceful and tranquil.
Royalty rests here. King John (the baddy of Robin hood fame) lies here as does Prince Arthur the brother of Henry VIII are both interred in the Cathedral which is also free to get in. I understand the Bishop thinks it should be so. Good on him. However, I am also led to believe the fundraising ‘elsewhere’, could be going better. Everybody is fundraising. Me included. Money in all its demanding magnificence, ever makes us it slaves. It is so ‘God like’ in its power, that Jesus Himself elevates it to it being equivalent with the most High when he says “you cannot serve God and money” and every day, in ten thousand ways, on our television screens, in the plastic cards peeping over the tops of our purses and wallets , and the worries over our empty bank accounts and pensions, we all readily confess that money is our true master, for we find our comfort and our peace in its possession, and our confidence in its spending, and our power in being in its presence where we drool over its massive magnificence, and oh my God, should it ever threaten to withdraw itself, we tremble at even the proposition of its absence. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon”. Matthew 6:24 NKJV
Anyhow, I digress, where was I? Oh yes: I wander around the quiet cloisters and the coffee shop, the gift shop and the restaurant. Everything about Worcester Cathedral is beautiful.
I ask a guide if I might speak to the head verger. He says for me to wait here whilst he gets Meredith. I wait. Meredith never comes. I spot another guide and introduce myself. Barbara is a retired university lecturer, a volunteer Cathedral guide. She lives around the corner from the Cathedral and is incredibly helpful to me. We talk for sometime about the State of the church and our families. We pray together.
INSERT INTERVIEW HERE.
Barbara is determined to help me and takes me to see someone in Diocesan house. He is out. Indeed, ALL the clergy are away for the week on a retreat of some kind, Not one is available. (NOTE TO SELF : “September is no time to try and get hold of Cathedral clergy, for they are all swanning off somewhere else.”)
Barbara introduces me to the Bishops PA, who introduces me to the diocesan communications officer, who takes me back to the Cathedral to see Meredith, the head verger and while in the so doing, introduces me to a thin and hairy guy with a camera. I thought he looked like a runaway Mennonite, or an Amish without a hat, wearing a pair of ‘Osh Gosh B’Gosh’ that belonged to his big brother. This was the Cathedrals archaeologist, and a nicer bloke you could not meet. Whilst the elusive Meredith was sought for, me and the hairy stick man chatted and I received an education.
Meredith is eventually brought forth and kindly suggests that I use the Crypt for the proclamation of Esther. In small procession, me, Meredith and the archaeologist all walk down to the Crypt. In effect, most Norman Crypts were both the ‘strong room’ for holy relics, a strange medieval version of ‘What the butler saw’, where pilgrims paid a price to view some nice old bones, or a nail from the cross, or a naughty piece of leg from St Ann the divine Summers, the patron saint of fallen women. The Vaulted ceiling of the crypt, provided strength and elevation to the high alter above it.
When Meredith realised I would be recording the message from Esther, she had to depart to go and get permission. Meanwhile that gave me and my new hairy Anglican Amish pal time to talk and he kindly gave me an interview, after which I prayed for the healing of various parts of his body. Being an archaeologist is murder on the knees, hips and shoulders. I can believe it as well.
INSERT VIDEO HERE
Meredith returns with permission and with Simon, who has only been a verger for a couple of months and is press ganged into being the cameraman. Simon is a smashing young man, who in the Crypt appears to me to be about 8ft tall. He does a great job in recording the proclamation (which he likes) and Barbara comes down to the Crypt and listens in on the message as well.
Simon gives me an interview.
INSERT VIDEO HERE
I ask Simon if he can hook me up with another venue and he takes me into the secret place of vergers to make a few phone calls.
INSERT VIDEO HERE
Simon reckons getting into the University would be a great idea. So do I. He tries to hook me up with the Chaplain but she is unavailable. A message is left and I get her number to call her later. Café Nero now calleth.
It’s on the way to Café Nero that I spy St Helens. I am told that this is an Evangelical Anglican church, and so I try to make connection. No one is home but the church office at the back, is in fact not the church office but Council office providing a hub of services to the physically needy in the community. Glenda answers the door. We get talking, and I ask if I can pray for here. She declares herself to be a ‘lost soul’ and is decidedly unimpressed with the church who have given her a hard time over the choice of a black granite headstone for the grave of her father who died this past year. All the hassle has proved too much for her and left her decidedly disappointed at the church. I think about the Mardi-grass like decoration of all the new graves in Greatness cemetery in Sevenoaks, the hedgehogs and the garden gnomes, the plastic windmills, solar lights and brightly coloured stones, the helium filled balloons hanging off dead babies graves full of birthday presents of bears in plastic bags, and of the delicately placed can of open Stella Artois placed at the head of one young man, “forever missed and mourned for each Monday at Mid-day by Mr & Mrs Pagan of Plimsoll Close in Paddington.” This particular vicar obviously needed to get out more.
I apologise (again) for the stupidities of laws and regulations of Christian religion. I try and point her to the real Jesus. I try and get her to look past those parts of the organised church that poses as Jesus, but is not Him really. I try and get her to look beyond what she sees, to a more solid reality. I am using words to try and do this and they are plastered with apology and pleading. She has to go and so do I, Café Nero still doth call.
Allen is selling the Big issue. He’s pleading as well. “Oh c’mon” he says elongating the ‘o’ far, far tooooooo long. “Oh C’mohhhhhhhn, buy a big issue.” His whole demeanour is one of desperate begging. I Want to stop and buy one, but I have no money. I want to stop and educate him in smiling at his customers, but I remember how awful I was at begging in Exeter.
I arrive in Nero’s and put the Coffee on my card. I need to use the Internet. I ring a church in Hereford for tomorrow. I have a message from Job. I get the Pastor first time! Wehey! He doesn’t think he can help me though. ‘Oh dear’ says I, what a shame, never mind.
- I ring the Chaplain at the university and leave another message
- I ring the President of the student union. He is in a meeting. I email him.
- I email the leader of the Christian Union.
- I have missed a call from the chaplain.
- I call back quick and get her. I explain everything and she says she will make a few calls and get back to me to see if I can speak at the Christian Union Meeting tonight. Result!
I have now have three hours to wait until 7:30pm
Meanwhile an exceptionally good friend of mine contacts me via email and says that my use of low level expletives are offending some people and these people are guys. I appreciate his honesty more than I can say, and he is trying to help and guide me. He is a good friend. But I am troubled by this and before I go to bed I am going to speak to half a dozen more folks about this. Their reactions differ, and one uses a high level expletive to emphasize his disdain. Others are more measured and range from “If they are not financially supporting you, forget ‘em” to “written low level expletives come over more harsh because the aural intonation and context is missing”. I am gonna have to think about this.
Meanwhile, another brother calls me and shares how he has been kind of chastised for sending out an email that is prefixed with the following
“Ephesians 5:15 – Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise. The following email gives you information to help build wisdom. Please take 20 minutes to read it and the links. As Christian men, we are encouraged to discern current times, to see it with spiritual eyes. Behind the distraction of a busy lifestyle, we can be unaware of what is happening at a deeper spiritual level. The matter described below helps you to be aware, forewarned. It is not the only issue attacking the Christian faith either. If you think this is not going to affect you or your family – evidence shows it is and it will. It is already happening. If we are busy, dismissive that this is ‘Christian propaganda’ and wish that it would go away, burying our heads in the sand, striving to hang on to our own little world in which we live, one day we may be waking up to a sober realisation. So, Awake we must.
It’s an email regarding the contravening of Sexual Orientation Regulations, which in itself sounds downright Orwellian when said out loud. These SOR’s are being used by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which are discriminating against Christians who by their very existence, seem to these people to float like turds on the sea of ‘pink law’ flooding into our land carrying HMQS Homophobic into the heartlands of what used to be Christian society. Anyhoo, he got into some trouble by having the audacity to talk about these things.
We spoke for a good while, and I remembered the naughty curate I spoke to a while ago who wore and unseen tag on his spiritual ankle. He was on probation, he had to watch what he said, who he said it to and how he said it. “Wisdom’ cry some, “Maturity” cry others “Circumspect “ says the old black suited deacon. Like so many people in ministry, watching their P’s and Q’s , their ‘jobs worth’ mature and circumspect wisdom had robbed the light from their eyes.
It was maybe 12 years ago when my first book of performance poetry got banned from the local Christian Bookshop for having the word crap and bugger in it. When I was publicly dressed down by the bookstore manager, I stood their embarrassed and cried out “But its art!” My wife still laughs at this. The local press got hold of it. (One day I will confess how they got hold of it) and I appeared on a full page spread, and then later on page three of Sun, where it said “Local Pastor has his book banned. Rev. Victor Robert Farrell says “His job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable!” It was magnificent tag line, but those men reading page three of the Sun usually had their eyes on a couple of other things. But you know, it went wilder! I was invited to be Prime Minister for the day on local radio, laying out my policies for BBC Southern Counties and then Breakfast television rang to get me to come and national television. I should have gone, but my cowardice kicked in and my elders were already very embarrassed. The next Poetry reading I did seemed to be boycotted. Four Christians turned up and that included my and the wife.
I birthed WhisperingWord out of all that, wanting to get the real Bible to real people in Raw ways. Today our four applications are downloaded in over fifty countries in both English and in Spanish, two books, and over 1 million emails of devotional material in raw and real Biblical expression are available to the general public. This then, is an old, old problem.
I have noticed that as Christian’s we do rightly say that we should let nothing out of our mouth except that which builds people up. Let me tell that if we did this, then it would lead to exceptionally quiet gatherings. Men especially would have nothing to say to one another. But what if we were to take the opposite of this and also say, “Let nothing INTO your head and heart which does not build you up?” I mean, Television, and almost every Movie we watch has some foul innuendo, some murder, robbery or some sex scene, indeed, our minds drink in every vile word and action you can imagine that fills our Technicolor screens. We don’t use low level expletives, but we watch every violent war film that there is and have probably have observed the acted murder of thousands whilst eating popcorn and sucking coke through a straw whilst we did so. –
Bridget says I should stop using low level expletives in the blog. I had supposed I had better. I will trawl the blogs and tart them up.
Meanwhile, it’s time to get back out of out of my head and back in Nero’s, I get into conversation with a group of sixty year olds about the state of the nation. I interview one of the group.
INSERT INTERVIEW HERE
Another agonistic in the Nero group owns the Jewellery shop next door. He says “ “The Market rules and the Market will force Greece out of the Euro and back to the Drachma, for the Market is the main mover in the universe, all things bow to it. “ He knows that money has God like qualities. We talk about religion, we talk about man having eternity in his heart that he might seek God. He does not believe in God, but recognises real faith in others. He hopes he has not missed something. I share with him the missing link. I wonder if Market forces in this man’s life will continue to mask the missing link.
After two coffees it’s time to leave. I go and get some money and increase my overdraft. I need some batteries, and some change to buy a ‘Big Issue’ off Allen who has been pleading “C’mooohhhhhhn” all day.
Allen is from the North East. I give him a couple of Quid but let him keep his last Big Issue magazine. Maybe someone else can buy it. Alan does not want me to take his picture. He is on the run from some bad people. Most heroin addicts are, though Alan says he is now clean. Apparently he has been in rehab, though left 11 days before graduation because he was tested and accused of drinking alcohol. “It must have been my inhaler for my Asthma” he says “Cause I honestly did not have a drink! And as honesty is one of the pillars of recovery and they still did not believe me, I told them to desist from their accusation and kindly accept my resignation from their program”…or words to that effect.
Alan rings his mum regularly, but he can’t go home. He has hurt his family far too much in the past and his siblings hate him. “It is better I stay away”. This is a lie of course, for if you have repented, it is better you go home, where your Father always waits to fall upon your neck and wash you with happy tears. Hurt siblings hate the slaying of the fatted calf, but your Father loves to throw this kind of returning prodigal party. I am glad Alan rings his mum.
“I was labouring, had money and my own flat. A bus knocked me off my bicycle and ran over my arm. It was a big as my leg and they had to operate or amputate. They saved my arm. But I lost everything. Now I live in a tent, but I am saving up my money and when I get enough I am going to Penzance to try and start again.” I commend Alan in his fortitude and encourage him to keep going in the right direction. I genuinely admire his most certain of attitudes. It makes me believe he will make it. I hope he does.
I buy a Chilli Slice from Greggs and a bag of chocolate covered Brazils from the pound shop. Its 5:30 pm and time for dinner.
I sit at the feet of Elgar and look across at the Cathedral
Horatio (or Horace to his friends) is named after Nelson. He is 89, virtually blind and as happy as a sand boy. He is on a day trip from Birmingham. He has been coming here for years, especially in the winter, “because its 8 degrees warmer in Worcester in the winter”. I didn’t know that.
So there we are. Me, Elgar and Horatio and the pigeons, chewing over life, the universe, dead wives, life in a male voice choir and the future. We talk about Jesus. Horace thinks Jesus is magnificent and wishes he could meet him. He says “I bet you wish you could meet his as well. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” I agree that it would. Horace tells me that he has been to church a couple of times this year, and then naughtily confesses that the reason for this, is that if he changes his will, the Vicar can sign it and he won’t have to pay a solicitor to do it”
I say “Now Horace, you have to be careful who you confess your sins too, cause you will never guess what I do?”
He turns to me and with shock on his face he says “You’re not a solicitor are you?”
I say “No Horace. I’m a vicar” and with that he slaps his knees and roars with laughter.
I tell him what I am doing. I get my passport out of my pocket and hold my picture up to his eyes. “Horace” I says “Jesus is my passport into heaven. If you’ve got Him, you’re in! He’s a free pass.” I share the everlasting Gospel with this delightful man. Horace tells me that he goes regularly to a Christian guest house in Llandudno, I call it up on my iPad. He is mightily impressed and hoops out his delight for everyone to hear. God has been on Horace’s case for quite some time.
Like an old white rabbit, Horace has to rush away for his train. White stick in his hand, he clears a path for the station. I put my passport in my pocket. Its 6:05 pm and still no phone call ref the Christian Union. I need to pee and Horace has told me the Cathedral has marvellous peeing facilities. A man with a prostrate problem knows these things.
The Cathedral looks majestic in the early evening sun. Its vespers, and the choir are magnificent. The place seats thousands but tonight, it’s me and an old lady, just two souls and one large bladder, who are forced to their knees to worship God. An ancient Cathedral, two people, a large ladder and a choir, and over 100,000 people going about their lives within spitting distance of all this magnificence. Yes, there’s just two people, a large bladder and a choir in here tonight. It makes you think.
I can’t find the toilet and so sneak into a pub across the road. I make my way back to the car. Its nearly 7pm and still the chaplain has not called. I tidy the car. I ring Bridget and moan. She commiserates and chastises me in equal measure. It’s 7:20pm. The Chaplain never called. £8.90 for the parking ticket and I am on the road to Hereford. Bridget has booked me in to a B & B with Wi-Fi.
I arrive about 8:50pm. It’s a pub in the middle of nowhere. There is no Wi-Fi. There is no phone signal. There is no iPad signal. But there is ‘Flowers Ale’ on tap. I complain at the lack of Wi-Fi. The landlady says “No we never said there was Wi-Fi and frankly dear, you need to see it as a blessing. You look very tired and don’t need to do any more work this evening.” I have a half-pint of flowers and go to my room. It’s nearly 9:00pm.
I go up stairs and lie on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. This is a pub. As a Christian minister, is me staying here allowed? I have downed a ½ a pint of Alcohol. I envisage all the Southern Baptists over 50 and the Irish Pentecostals and the Scottish Presbyterians are all ‘tutt-tutting’ at the back of my bed. If I had three pints more, (I don’t have the capacity and I would be smashed) would this be even less acceptable? As long as I am not drunk with wine..can I get drunk with anything else? I remember that I lost a Christian job over a glass of wine…I remember I lost another job over saying you could be a Christian and a Democrat at the same time. It’s true. I know that religion has no mercy and in its own self righteousness it will sacrifice you in an instant, it will throw you away like used toilet paper and flush you down the u-bend. I have worked in what we call ‘the Kingdom’ for more than half my life, and I tell you that it is a nasty place, where, when man-made taboos are tinkered with, will turn from niceness into nastiness in a new York minute and turn and rip you apart. It is a dangerous place and it is a lonely place, where burnt leaders walk in fear, having sacrificed their integrity on the altar of their pension and an easy life, where lost leaders play the game, and who, like empty shells, live lives with no fire, all devoid of any substance they once had and have become caricatures of all things religious and have lost themselves in the long, so long ago. I remember my words to the young man ‘called to the ministry’ in Southampton. “Don’t go anywhere near it! “ I said, “If you can do ANYTHING else, then please go and do it. Go and enjoy yourself. Get a proper job. Do anything but do this, for unless you play the game, it will kill you dead.”
You see friends, what we call the Kingdom………isn’t. And if it is, then I want nothing to do with it, for it contains more of hell than any man would want to live with. No, the Kingdom is far less solid and much more winsome, more elusive, more hidden, desired and longed for than we could ever imagine, for it is within us! In other words, it is presently a spiritual expression found only in the living stones of the body of Christ. Cathedrals are not part of the Kingdom of God, neither is your chapel or your mega-church, your Para-church or your meta-church, your peccadilloes, your armadillos, covenants, statements of faith, constitutions and dogma, not one of them is the Kingdom of God, and quite frankly, they probably have little to do with it. Sorry about that.
No, if you are a believer, then you might find ‘the Kingdom’ in this present age in only but two places, that is, within yourself and within other believers. Everything else, even if be it overlaid with gold or bedecked with fine towers and full of gurgling fountains, is but fuel for the fire. It is nothing else. Yes, though it be magnificent to our man shaped mission and vision, it is but passing, and should it ever be labelled ‘The Kingdom of God’, then I tell you, that it is false and in being so deceptively false, it is become a lie, and lies of such a shining, come only from Satan, the father of lies, who has appeared as an angel of light to captivate and to kill us. Looking believers will eventually feel the heat of this deception and hear the crackling fire. Tell me now, which Orpheus offered pill have you taken my friend, for nothing is at it appears to be.
I wonder why, that with such insight, that I am finding it hard to get employment in the church.
I need to go to sleep. Tomorrow it is the city of Hereford and who knows, if I am brave enough, I may try to join the S.A.S. “Who dares wins Rodney…Who Dares Wins.”
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