I left Mum's flat in Tanyard Close at 10.15 and walked down Tanyard Lane, passing by the grand, cream painted Red Lion pub on the corner of Tanyard Lane and Red Lion Street.
(Click here to see inside the pub, plus the excellent menus and interesting history.)
But I did not stop at the pub. I was on my way to Alvechurch Baptist Church for Sunday worship; a home away from home on Sunday mornings in England.
In less than five minutes I was there, and through the open door was hailed by familiar friends.
The church is an elongated octagon with three rows of straight backed, polished wooden pews; five rows separated into two in the centre by a low barrier and 7 rows on either side along the window walls.
If Mum's friend Trudy Cluderay was there, sitting in her usual spot, I would have joined her, but she was taken ill just before her 97th birthday on July 29th and has not been able to get out to church. So I found an seat in an empty row at the back, in the centre aisle.
On the screen hanging from the ceiling on the right of the small platform a projector displayed a message suggesting that we, "quietly and prayerfully prepare ourselves to worship God." But no one heeded the message; the church was alive with the chatter of voices--children's shouts mingled with the multiple lively conversations of the adults. I thought to myself that if I were God I would like the noise better.
That indefinable smell, common to old buildings hung in the air--I guessed at furniture polish and old cloth. The light streamed in through Gothic leaded windows onto the floor of worn herringbone wooden parquet tile.
The pianist/organist sat down at the piano and began to play a Bach prelude. Everyone talked on, but I enjoyed the treat of the beautiful music, greatly.
A plump woman named Anne, a little older than me, I would say, sitting on the other side of the wooden wall dividing our pew, told me her birthday was today. She joked that her son had asked for 50 volunteers to give her "the bumps." "Only a son could say that," she said with a rueful smile.
("The Bumps", a torment common in countries such as the U.K., Ireland, and the U.S., involves the friends and family of the person whose birthday it is taking him or her by the arms and legs, and "bumping" him/her up into the air and down onto the floor. The number of "bumps" given equals the age of the person in years plus one "for luck". Usually "the Bumps" are administered only to children, in part because as people grow up they become too heavy for the process. Wikipedia)
Fiona, the minister, stood up and began the service by pointing us to the announcements in our bulletins, especially reminding us that, "Next Sunday, there will be a church picnic after the service, in The Meadows." People were asked to bring a picnic chairs and a picnic lunch of sandwiches to share.
"We shall make our way to The Meadows for fun, after coffee in the hall. Plan b, if the weather is really bad, is to have the picnic in the church hall and pretend that we are in The Meadows."
Then she stepped down to address the children before they went off to more energetic activities in the hall. The theme for the service was. "Faith in Adversity," and as she told them a story about a tightrope walker, the adults listened with as rapt attention as the children. First she explained what a tightrope was as the children didn't know, then she demonstrated how the man in the story would walk up and down the rope, strung tightly between two buildings. "Sometimes he even carries things," she said, "Like a tray of drinks. Can you think of something he might carry?"
"Bananas!" volunteered one enthusiastic child, bringing a ripple of laughter.
The man sometimes took a wheelbarrow across. "Who is brave enough to sit in my wheelbarrow?" he asked, but no one was.
Fiona said that in such situations we need faith and the strength of God. I felt like it would take a big leap of faith for me to get into that wheelbarrow no matter what. I hope others were more responsive to her point! :)
She told a funny story about a man who took a photograph of his beloved to a photography store to have it copied. This involved taking the photo out of a frame. When the store clerk took it out, there was a note on the back of the photo saying:
Me Dearest Tom,And there was a post script:
I gives you me heart. I will love you forever and ever. Nothing will ever separate us,
If we ever break up, I want this picture back.Obviously not a good example of starting out in faith!
At the end of the service I said my goodbyes to this small group of faithful Christ followers and headed home to lunch with Mum, carrying the love of many friends with me.
Later in the afternoon I walked in the opposite direction, to Snake Lane, to visit our friend Trudy. I hadn't wanted to knock on the door before, in case she couldn't come to open it, but at church Anne told me to just go in through the door and call out, "Is anybody home?" so that is what I did.
This photo is of her late husband. I took it years ago at Alvechurch Baptist Church, as he played the piano during the coffee time after church. Trudy treasured the photo as she didn't have any recent ones of him. She keeps it on top of the piano.
Approximately 45 years ago Mr. Cluderay was Mum's piano teacher. She strove to practice faithfully after work, but although she played the accordian beautifully by ear, she didn't keep up her piano lessons for very long.
Trudy was thrilled to show me the photos below, of her granddaughter in New Zeeland, with her two children. For years this granddaughter was prayed for as she had a serious medical condition.
Eventually she had a bone marrow transplant and recovered, but was told she would never be able to have children due to the effects of heavy duty medications she had taken.
A young man fell in love with her and wanted to marry her in spite of the fact that she couldn't have children. God had other plans and, as Trudy put it, "Here are the children who were not supposed to be."
Before I left I asked if I could pray with her. Trudy eagerly said yes, and we clasped hands. I thanked God for her friendship, prayed for recovery from her ailments and thanked him for the light that she is in Alvechurch. She is a great example of faithfulness to God and of what
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:
"The essential thing 'in heaven and earth' is...that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living."