My visit to Brinkworth Church occurred on the same day. We already knew it was impossible to leave the Abbey and make it for the beginning of the service so I arrived just before 11.00, with it almost halfway through. It is certainly thought provoking turning up outside a Sunday service in full swing with a full size cross. Do I try the heavy oak door? Will I disrupt proceedings if it makes a large creak as it opens? Should I poke my head in to check they are ready or do as agreed and simply walk in with it? These and a million other questions immediately floated by and as I paused in my uncertainty a friendly face opened the door and said ‘Hi, we’re expecting you!’ Mike Graham, leading the service, had apparently pre-warned everyone that I might suddenly come trundling in and presumably not to be alarmed.
Stephen, the rector in charge, suddenly appeared smiling, proudly wearing his post inclusion conference top, something the colour of which matched the warmth and vibrancy of my reception. At an appropriate moment I was able to humbly walk in, with a helpful pair of hands to ensure I didn’t unwittingly behead any congregation members, and the cross took pride of place at the front. The congregation was warm and receptive and it was a joy to be able to tell them about what was being planned. I think what summed up this visit for me was a comment after the service by a young lady I was talking to. She said ‘we have two crazy vicars, Mike and Stephen, what more could you ask for?’ Well I wouldn’t have asked for much more but I do believe God gave something anyway.
During our voyage Howard had instigated a daily office. I mentioned it a few times in our blog, especially the hymn ‘For those in peril on the sea’ with its line ‘in wild confusion, peace’ I hung onto throughout our journey. The evening prayers included an upbeat hymn which always raised a smile, for whilst it was difficult to sing it without smiling, it contained some good things relating to our need to have faith. I was never offered the opportunity to do anything but participate with those prayers during our voyage but I found this gave me something to anchor myself to and I found it immensely helpful. No matter what had occurred during the day, we all came together and made peace twice a day, joined in our mutual connection. Mike has not read my blogs but in deciding to give his sermon he selected the same song and had it printed as the last hymn (shown above), even though it was not present in the available books. Thus as the service closed I found myself holding back a tear, for as those words unexpectedly erupted, I found God feeling both near and offering reassurance. The two crazy vicars subsequently agreed to house the cross for a week prior to it going to Malmesbury Abbey for the 6th March blessing.
That started another conversation. The church is open and it was asked, ‘what if somebody steals it?’ I so hope they do, for if it’s for firewood then it’s a worthy sacrifice to make. If it’s for malice that cross has been blessed so many times already, by so many, that I suspect God will be at work on the thief and that will be worth the small sacrifice, whilst we frantically source another with some urgency.