43 of 66 | The City of RIPON | Messed up Thumbs!

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I slept a good eight hours. This is unheard of. So I was up at 6:00am and spent an hour in counsel and conversation with my friend in Boston, who was a night owl or shall we say, a very early morning owl. I showered, packed, stripped the bed, then had breakfast with my lovely hosts before getting on the road around 8:30am.

It would only be a 90 minute drive to my next city and the roads were calm and quiet. There was still the ever present War of the Worlds style average speed cameras making me go at 50mph with an open road before me. I am becoming paranoid about cameras. A man I know in his seventies, founder and head of a large influential Christian charity, was fined for doing 34mph in a 30mph limit, accelerating out of a bend. This is nothing but Orwellian indirect taxation. This is not griping, it’s a fact. We are the most watched people on the planet. Even now, sat in Weatherspoons in Ripon, the black glass eyeball is watching every move of my knife and fork, indeed, when I asked directions from a security guard in Sunderland, he took hold of his Camera stick and zoomed into streets which were over ½ a mile away. The quality of picture was excellent. Frankly, I’m sick of it. I may be developing a phobia. Oh and don’t give me that, “well you have nothing to worry about if you are not doing any wrong” baloney. Whoever ‘they’ are, ‘they’ know where you are, what you are doing and what you had for breakfast this morning…and if you picked your nose after. Imagine that. Anyhoo, enough of my growing paranoia.

During the drive down to Ripon I was reflecting on a number of things. A couple of things came up in my mind.

First, that I was quite shy. Titter ye not! This public proclamation does not come easy to me. In Durham yesterday I proclaimed in a Café and in the large and very public space on the North Wall of the Cathedral. Both safe places really. Admittedly I was on my own in the centre of Newcastle with a severed head on Saturday, but in Sunderland and in among the bustling masses of Durham Market, I had not publicly proclaimed the Gospel. I seemed to have lost my courage a bit, or maybe I was a bit tired, or a bit lonely. That last one had a lot to do with it. There is something about being with a pal doing this kind of stuff. Someone to pray with, someone to encourage you, someone to watch your back. I dunno, I would think about that one a little bit more.

Secondly, save on one occasion, which had nothing to do with me, I had not been aware of any sense of conviction of sin coming upon people. On quite a few occasions I had been applauded, including yesterday in Durham. This is great, but no one is getting saved? I remember Bill the 88 year old and his Birthday party of a couple of nights ago. He told the story of a soldier from WW2 seeking forgiveness and with great tears publicly confessing of how he had kicked a Japanese soldier to death. There was a convicted man needing forgiveness. Pat told of another solider, this time seeking forgiveness for “liking killing too much”. The first enemy soldier he had killed, bore greatly on his conscience, the 2nd less so, the third even less and soon, he was getting ‘pumped’ by the deed. It shocked him and he became convicted and sought forgiveness from God. Two men from both ends of the spectrum, both needing and seeking forgiveness. I have seen virtually nothing of that. My preaching is not sharp enough. I am too nice and with that, ineffectual.
I thought about my method of preaching in the market place. Drama worked. I mean dressing like death, having a severed head, a couple of full size skeletons, a Jerry Springer style exclamation sign and the like, it all got a crowd, got people’s attention, got them engaging. This was the way to go for sure. But how far? You can hide behind a character, like Leo Sayer did with his clown. (No offence Leo but maybe you should have stayed behind the clown?) Yes, you can become the character, lose yourself in it and so hide yourself in it, let dramatic preaching truly become an art form. It can be offensive, pointed, but is it you? Does that matter? One thing is for sure, all public proclamation needed follow up discipleship and local church connection. No doubt about it.

Ripon was an easy drive and I arrived in the market place across from Nero’s around 10:00 a.m. It was a calm, quiet and murky morning, but I wondered if the rising sun would give a beautiful day in the end? I wondered if I should go non-comformist today or Anglican and in the end I opted for the service in the Cathedral. Who knows, I might actually catch a Dean today.
The greeters introduced me both to the Dean and to Dr Soandso who would be the preacher for the day. Nice fellas. Ripon Cathedral is more like a very large Parish church. It has all the finery, pomp and circumstance coupled with the relative intimacy of a Parish church. There were even children and a ‘Gallumpa’. Yes, this lovely lady came in at the very end of everyone else just as the service had started, well dressed, high heeled and with a hat so full of feathers it made her look as though she was surrounded by a swarm of bees. She ‘gallumped’ across the stone floors, her high heels staccatoing her presence, the bees buzzing all around her smiling head. She was the only woman wearing a hat. It was quite an entrance.

The Dean greatly aided the warm and welcoming atmosphere, he was obviously a warm and welcoming guy himself and well loved by his congregants. The service was atypical with much parading and pomping, dishwashing and bellringing. I loved it. I liked especially the Gospel being read in the aisle, two lighted candles on each side of the vicar and everyone turning toward the book as if looking at a Bride. It was a bit like Marks & Spencers, nice some of the time but going every week would do your ‘ed in! By the way, no offence is intended whatsoever. I like Ripon Cathedral and it is one of the nicest I have been in. It was Bible Sunday.

The congregation numbered about 200 today and there was a couple of dozen kids, the pack grown larger by some visiting Brownies. Most of the congregation were professional respectable people in their 60’s. It was the grandparents who had brought some of the little munchkins. Interesting. The Dean dealt with them very well, but frankly I cannot abide screeching kids. Whether it’s in a church, a coffee shop or a restaurant, screeching kids should be turfed out with their seemingly indifferent parents and minders. If you want to screech then do it at home. Get a grip- parents! You are turning me into Victor Meldrew.

The Curate preached the sermon and it lasted ten minutes. It ended like the prophecy of Jonah, with a question mark. It was OK. Some preaching organisations would have slapped him. They may yet slap me!

Dr Buxton is the curate at Ripon, with his long hair, earing and PHD and I wouldn’t half like to sit down for a beer and a curry with him. He seems a fascinating bloke who completed his doctorate in Buddhist Studies at Cambridge University and who has stayed in numerous monasteries around the world. He appeared in a TV series called the ‘The Monastery’ and after having a profound experience at Worth Abbey, trained to be an Anglican priest at St Stephen’s House, Oxford University and has contributed much to secular media with his thoughts on theology, which have included a visit to the Coptic Monastery of Saint Anthony in Egypt. He is not only Curate but Minor Canon at Ripon Cathedral. His book on monasticism ‘Tantalus and the Pelican’, includes considerable description and assessment of his experience at Worth Abbey and at St. Hugh’s Charterhouse, Parkminster, the Carthusian monastery which he visited during the Channel 4 TV series’ Amazing really. You never know who you are speaking to or listening to.
I had coffee in the Cathedral after the service and was able to interview the Dean and Nick, who was the preacher. I am so grateful for the time they gave me and for their comments.


I retired to Nero’s and though the Wi Fi worked, they had no plugs for my laptop! A grade one listed building apparently, and that was excuse enough to have no plugs. I drank my Chai Latte and left. I know! I am giving these up….tomorrow. The manager of Nero’s (do you know they have over 500 outlets!) pointed me to Wetherspoons who had both Wi Fi and sockets. I bivouacked there, got a table with a plug, ordered some lunch and settled down for a good wee while. The Wi Fi was intermittent and seemingly dependant on who was standing up where and which kid was screeching loudest. One mum walked by, tutting and saying to her five year old “Make your mind up! I thought you wanted the bloody toilet.” I was in Wetherspoons in North Yorkshire, the place where people ‘say what they bloody well like and like what they bloody well say!” In the United Kingdom, you don’t have to travel too far to come across some exceptionally different cultures and attitudes,  turns of phrase and use of low level expletives common to the area.
I wanted a quiet day today. Bridget was going to be eating with friends in Tunbridge Wells and I was sat on my ‘Jack Jones’ in Wetherspoons with an intermittent Wi Fi connection surrounded by ‘bloody’s.’ I needed to prepare for tonight though and it had been recommended to me that I might visit Fountain Abbey. I just might.

I ordered my Roast beef dinner, got several packets of Horse radish sorted and waited expectantly. Meanwhile I rang Bridget. It was good to hear her voice and hear other friends in the background. I am glad she wasn’t alone. As for ‘Billy No Mates’ here, well his lunch had now arrived. It was nice. A bit Wetherspoony, but nice. 6 out of 10.

I sat in Wetherspoons for about three hours typing, listening to comments about the ‘bloody’ football, the ‘bloody’ manager and the ‘bloody’ wife and when my mind was all ‘bloodied’ out and as red as a geek in a paintball game, it was time to get some air. Fountain Abbey was a few miles down the road. It was a National Trust property so I knew there would be a charge, but maybe I could sneak over a wall? Maybe my magic card would work? “Excuse me I am Rev. Farrell, I wonder if I could just come in and pray?”. I imagine the answer: “No, you bloody can’t. Pay up or bog off!” I had been in Wetherspoons too long.

I arrived back in Ripon around 5pm. It had been a relaxing afternoon. I parked in the Market Square near enough to Nero’s to get their Wi Fi, rang Bridget and then prepared some more for tonight’s message from the Gospel of John at a church in the city of Ripon.

Come 6:15pm I was at said church and met with the exceptionally brave minister. He told me that the churches in Ripon were working well together, save two Evengelical congregations with whom they had cordial but non-working relations, both of which were formed by two brothers of this very church, who left them in the 1960’s to form a new congregation. The new congregation eventually split and so the leaving brothers ended up planting two churches!
I was going to talk about Light and Life in my message and how in the opening verses of John they were both linked directly to ‘the Word’ and in my jacket pocket, both left and right, I had my illustrations made ready!

Yesterday in Durham I had bought two false flesh coloured thumbs which slipped over your real thumbs and in the tip of each was an L.E.D with a switch, which when pinched with your fingers, lit up as though you were catching light. The light was red. So my message revolved around the blood of Jesus, the Light of the World and the Word of God. I know this worked with children and so why not with 70 year olds? Yes indeed, my congregation tonight was about two dozen older folks in their seventies and a few in their 40’s. And to top it all, though I was in a fine Methodist building the service was exceptionally Anglican in form, the communion service being identical in word format as to the Cathedral service this morning.

The church readings and hymns all seemed surprisingly related, but the very elderly gentleman, who quietly whistled when he walked to and from the lectern could not finish reading the passage. His cataracts ‘came down like shutters’ and blocked off the words. Bless him, he did not look well.

I was invited up into the pulpit where I surreptitiously slipped on the false thumbs in preparation for the clever illustration where I would pluck red light from thin air. I should have known better really. The false thumbs made it impossible for me to turn pages in the pulpit Bible , and the operating of the notes on my iPad was challenge as well and to top it all, the radio mic and my own digital mic kept slipping off my jacket, and the plastic thumbs made reconnection a challenge and of course, I could not pinch too hard because they would have lit up! I felt like a Monty Python character, fumbling away, trying to cover up the fact that I was wearing false thumbs. I think however, that I managed to keep all the fumbling below the pulpit level.

I felt that the sermon
was not received well and plucking red light from the sky did not impress a soul. The WOW factor I felt turned out to be a wet ‘What A Wally’ kind of deal. I was so hot when I got down from the pulpit that I had to slip my jacket off. The minister had asked me to stand at the door to say ‘au revoir’ to folk as they left. As people left I shook their hands (without the false thumbs) and the ONLY comment from one old fella was how he disagreed with my interpretation of the Scriptures. I didn’t argue, for if a man with false thumbs who could pull red light from thin air, couldn’t help him understand, then with pure argument alone I did not have a chance. Once you’re that age, you are set in your ways. Only one of the old ladies asked about the trick. I slipped on the false thumb and pulled red light from her ears. She smiled.

Bless them all, but to me, the whole thing felt like a total disaster. The poor minister never referred to the message when he said au revoir to me.

I should have known better really. As soon as I saw how old these good folk were, I should have left the thumbs alone. Many, many years ago, I preached at a Sunday night service at the Aged Pilgrim Friends Society to a large number of VERY elderly Christians about impending death. I had taken the fight scene from a Star Wars movie, where Darth Vadar cut down Obi Wan Kenobi with his green light sabre, only to find that Obi Wan Kenobi one had vanished. “This is what death will find when he comes for us, he shall strike, only to find us absent because we are instantaneously present with the Lord.” I was surrounded by cries of “That’s not in the Bible!” and the following day complaints were made to the Elders of my church who smiling, took me aside and suggested I never mention Darth Vadar in a sermon again. I should have known better really. Ah well.
The man I was staying with, was a lovely 77 year old who takes care of the Full Gospel Business man’s fellowship in this area, and when we got back he made me a boiled egg with bread and a hot cup of tea. It was smashing to sit and chat with him.

When I got to my room, I looked in the mirror to find out that I had been wearing my sweater inside out, the washing instruction label was flapping out at the back of my neck and all the seams outlined my arms and shoulders. How had I missed this! It had obviously added to the possible Wally factor.

I went to bed early tonight vowing to get up even earlier in the morning, but my sleep was full of nightmares. In my dreams, in no uncertain terms, I was visited with a message of assassination. Next week I would be killed. I remember I wrote about this a while ago now:

“Matthew 2:12: Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way

In 1812 in England, Spencer Percival told his wife that he had dreamt the previous night, that he was shot whilst in the House of Commons by a man wearing a green coat with brass buttons. His family tried to dissuade Percival, the then Prime Minister, from going to the House of Commons but the call of duty and the need to answer pressing questions of policy both at home and abroad, called The duty bound Prime Minister to work.

John Bellingham, who had claimed he had not received remuneration for work he had done in Russia on behalf of the crown being also quietly insane with the losses that he claimed had been brought upon him by the government, whilst wearing his green coat with brass buttons, calmly shot the Prime Minster through the heart and killed him. Bellingham was tried and just seven days later, was hung in front of Newgate prison.

Had Prime Minister Spencer Percival took note of the dream, no doubt he may have lived a lot longer and history may have been substantially changed. However, he ignored the premonition, the warning, the message, and consequently was killed.

Was this a message from God to someone who is reported to have been an ‘Evangelical Prime Minister’? Should he have listened? After all, what would you have done? If he had shared this dream with any one other than his family and then refused to have gone to work that day, no doubt he would have been classed as ‘losing his marbles’ as well as being a coward! Really, what can we make of these things? Well, maybe, we can at least modify Shakespeare and say “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that ARE dreamt of….” Think about it. For sure, if Percival had listened to that dream, the world might have been a substantially different place. Some dreams are worth listening to. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” Matthew 2:13”

My nightmare troubled me, but on reflection, I think it was the revenge of the egg.

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e today.

Hi there | we are in still in need of cash to finish this tour | We would love you to help | You can give ANY amount and you don’t need a paypal account either| Give right now and right here to: The Breakout Trust/66 Cities | Thanks in advance | DONATE

If You Want to see The First Twelve of Our 66 Minute Video Bible Check Here P.S. We need some more funding ti finish this project before Christmas so if you are up for it give me a call on 07975 805 323

Latest Press Releases That Google is Coming Up With

Why Not Make A Donation To This Valuable Ministry CLICK HERE

About vrfarrell

Biblical activist
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