As I pulled into Plymouth yesterday evening I felt God say he was going to do something. Now that of course is ridiculous and nothing was planned relating to the trip. I must admit this tardy situation is totally my own doing and pure self interest. My daughter Rose has just finished her degree and been made student of the year at Plymouth Uni. My brother Chris is busy making millions with The West Country Spice company, also based near Plymouth. I hope I can be forgiven for deciding that an evening with my daughter and breakfast with my brother was time invested wisely. So no church contacts had been made or reinvigorated. If God was going to do something then he could work around me for a change.
As I sat down and enjoyed a pint to wait for Rose, a chance comment from a chap on another table created a conversation. Despite his friend departing he kindly stopped to talk for a while. His name is Martin Reed and he is a former archaeologist who now lectures on IT at the Uni. He proceeded to relay a goldmine of information about the Celtic culture. No surprise given our proximity to Cornwall, but this wasn’t about Cornwall, it was about Devon! He had a specific interest in the post Roman history of the British Isles with a focus on the local county. If I started to repeat the information I noted down it would form an extensive list. He was fascinating and I am very grateful for his time, his enthusiasm and his inquisitive nature. I hope he does read this, if for no other reason than to see my genuine thanks expressed, but there is another reason.
You see whilst our conversation was incredibly educational for me, and very interesting, it felt clipped. It was as though he was expecting something and was wary of it. This was particularly true when the church was mentioned, which was mostly his side, as I was trying to pick his brains and opinions regarding the pre Roman Celts. Unlike a theologian, it was obvious knowledge to him that the Galatians were ‘Celtic’, although what, of course, does that definition mean. I loved our time which also included a discussion regarding ‘truth’, both in terms of archeological ‘fact’ and historic ‘truth’ which are both potentially relative truths and not necessarily out of keeping with the current American administration. As he departed he made a throw away remark and I realised why the slight tension was there. ‘Of course I’m an Atheist’ he said, as he left. My ‘that’s great news’ reply raised a puzzled smile and we separated like two passing ships, occupying the same space for a brief moment, then moving on.
I hope he will correct me if I’m wrong but I am fairly sure that he was expecting some sort of attempt to evangelise and that was what was behind the slight ‘tension’. Of course my thought that I don’t give a monkey’s cuss what other folk believe or disbelieve in relation to God may be non theologically correct. To me if faith, which I believe it is, is a God given gift, then I don’t need to try and sell it. What ever human beings think, say or do, this has no effect on God. God exists anyway and it is a privilege to have met him. It is also a privilege to have been offered faith, especially for someone so unworthy of receiving such a gift, such as myself. It was also a privilege to have met Martin and spent such a pleasurable time learning. As for God, well he had said he was going to do something, and also, thankfully, worked around my schedule!
Many thanks to Martin Reed of Plymouth Uni.