Just in case you thought nothing happens in St Peter’s Church during “Lockdown” I want to assure you it’s still “all go” …
I pick up a beer can in the churchyard. I was going to pick it up the other day, but I was worried it might have the coronavirus, so I gave it a few days to calm down. When I threw it away I had a sense of satisfaction: getting a job done. This only lasted a minute because straight afterwards I saw a dead bird in the churchyard. I’m hoping something will eat this so I don’t have to deal with it.
I write a sermon on the Book of Revelation. I like the Book of Revelation. There is nothing more I enjoy than a mystery, an enigma, a symbol or a secret code. When I am retired (or perhaps before) I might write a Dan Brown style novel myself. While writing this sermon I had happy memories of going through this book verse by verse in a Bible Study class as a curate in Ballymena. I learned then that Revelation is far less mysterious than it sounds, and is full of coded references to the situation of persecuted Christians at the time of the wicked emperor Vespasian.
We (well it wasn’t me, in a spirit of strict truth) did our once weekly check of our “Alley” houses which belong (at one remove) to St Peter’s. https://stpetersalleys.webs.com/ These beautiful Georgian houses have seen very much better days. Some are lived in by the widows of clergymen, some by members of the church of Ireland and some by private tenants. The rest of them are sadly empty, waiting for wealthy benefactor to restore them to their former glory. All expressions of interest or offers of help welcome.
I politely challenge a man in a shop who is not wearing a mask. He becomes angry and says as a Christian God will protect him, and I of all people should know this! He can sense I am doubtful about this claim, which makes him more angry. I think this over later and I don’t change my mind. Every day Christians die of Covid, cancer, accidents and murder, as well as having all sort of unpleasant and undeserved experiences. It seems confused (and dangerous) for anyone to believe that they alone are singled out for special protection.
I was amused by this conversation in the novel Berry & Co by Dornford Yates (1921) which begins with a landed Edwardian family going to church:
“Who’s going to look after the car while we’re in church?” said I. “There’s sure to be somebody ready to earn a couple of bob,” said Jonah. “Besides, we can always disconnect the north-east trunnion, or jack her up and put the wheels in the vestry or something.”
Not a problem we have these days thankfully. I have no idea what a north-east trunnion is, but I do feel a vestry full of wheels would be a health and safety hazard.
I have more time to watch films. Having most recently watched Carry On Cleo I feel it is now time to watch something more cultured: I watch Luchino Visconti’s stunning Death in Venice, and dream about drifting on a boat around (a curiously empty and foggy) Venice to the accompaniment of the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Somehow I don’t think this will ever happen. I note two parallels between the time the film is set (1912) and now. 1. Now is about the only time you could ever find Venice empty. 2. In the film (book, opera, etc) the city’s hotels and travel agents conspire to keep news of an epidemic of cholera from tourists. There is then a mass exodus of said fearful tourists before the city is locked down. Some of the those who remain die beautifully. If death can ever be beautiful.
A poem for New Year by Jackie Kay since 2016 the Scots Makar (national poet of Scotland)
Remember, the time of year
when the future appears
like a blank sheet of paper
clean calendar, a new chance.
On thick snow
you vow fresh footprints
then watch them go
with the wind’s hearty gust.
Fill your glass. Here’s tae us. Promises
made to be broken, made to last.
Jackie Kay’s poem was suggested by a member of the Select Vestry, who wishes to remain anonymous. It would be great to hear from you. You might share that secret family recipe for a Fruit Cake, your top tips to get through lockdown, or a fond childhood memory etc etc… Please contact me by eMail, SMS, phone or old style letter.
The Rev’d Iain Jamieson, Tel: (041) 9870073/ 083 8640133
The Rectory, Drogheda Email: email@example.com