Morning gathering, 10.30am, Sunday 15 June 2013
Led by: Kirsty (with no apparent surname)
Preacher: Kay Cathcart
What you’re about to read isn’t positive, so I’ll start with a caveat. I was in an irritable mood today, what with the traffic and the road closures and the slow service in the coffee shop and the looming deadlines and trying to juggle too many commissions at once … but hey, what harm could it do to throw one more task into the mix? I’d managed to stick to my plan almost every Sunday this year, and it would only be for an hour, right?
Wrong, because the whole bally show went on for an hour and three-quarters. Strike 1. Then there was the awful modern praise music, my thoughts on which I’ve expounded before. Strike 2, although the lead singer did have a cracking voice, but why she wastes it on this banal drivel is beyond me. Oh yes, and she said Hayellula, instead of Hallelujah, but let’s call that a slip of the tongue.
I found myself playing a little game of "spot the liturgical and/or scriptural source or inspiration" to get me through the worst of the music. Some of it’s easy … There is no one like our God, and the new-to-me Noah built the most enormous boat (with actions), but some of it less easy to pin down, such as Waiting here for you, a dirge I also encountered at the Elim church and which contains the bizarre lyric, “we’re desperate for your presence”. Why be desperate for the presence of an omnipresent deity?
Apart from that, I wrote a shopping list and wondered whether to patronise Waitrose or Morrison's (Morrison's won), and I amused myself by admiring the stained glass windows and wondering what the organ must have sounded like when the place still belonged to the Methodists and they still played it. Easily the biggest of the unplayed organs seen so far this year, now its majestic pipes are a mere backdrop for Miss Hayellula and the Sound Systems.
Okay, so that was strike 2. Were the boisterous kids strike 3? Not quite, because they left after a little while to go to their “kids and youth programmes”, held variously in rooms called Lewis, Skye, Islay, Jura, Harris and Room 10. Could they really not think of another Hebridean island?
No, strike 3 was the sermon, given by a woman with the most grating voice I’ve ever heard. It’s something about the accent, the misplacement of certain vowels on the resonator scale … I was already irritable, but I found myself gritting my teeth every time she said “peepul”, which was often, because she spoke for an unconscionably long time. Yes, that was strike 3.
What was she on about? Well, she said she would be “digging around in 2 Corinthians 10”, and so she waffled on about St Paul being gentle with “peepul” but strong against the enemy, and about how we should be consistent … with a little detour around social networking and how she didn’t like the look of the bulldog-type sheep (Beltex is my guess, and they were splendid specimens too) we’d seen in a video about the Happy Hens farm mission project supported by the church.
But at long last the sermon was all over, and all that remained was for her to pray, inviting those who felt they needed particular categories of prayer to stand up at the appropriate times (it’s all right, “peepul” will have their eyes closed). In particular she prayed for those who feel a critical spirit rising up in them, that their hearts may be softened … and for those who cling to the negative, remembering little irritating things and forgetting to see the big picture. Guilty … and guilty. But I didn’t stand up.
I haven’t been so glad to get out of a church since the deeply unpleasant Tridentine mass at St Margaret's and St Leonard's. What was it that irked me so? Could it really have been just the music, or just Mrs Cathcart’s voice? At any rate, I’ve had a bellyful of that kind of worship format, so I’ll be consciously avoiding any churches that go in for it from now on.
Ah! No, wait. Is there such a thing as strike 4? Because I’ve just remembered possibly the most irritating thing of all. The description of God, on father’s day, as “the dad of all dads”. Yeuch! Why does that set my teeth on edge? After all, there’s no one like our God, no one like our father, etc, etc. And yet … and yet … I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. As I said, I was in an especially irritable mood today.