It doesn’t get much worse than the story of the West Virginia miners and their families.
I went downstairs to feed the cat this morning – listening to the BBC reporting that all but one had been found alive – referring to the ‘power of prayer’ and how well it had worked. I pondered how the family of the one miner reported dead might feel about the power of prayer and why it hadn’t worked for them. And by the time I came back upstairs it was being reported that they were all dead. It doesn’t get more tragic that that.
Am I being grudging about the power of prayer in these circumstances?
‘Are we going to church today?’ – the sign that we are truly on holiday and that the professional church-goer has the same luxury of choice as everybody else. So it’s best navy cords instead of all the episcopal gear and [another luxury] arrive just in time rather than 30 minutes early.
It’s Holy Communion in Dunfanaghy – north-west Donegal where we have had a house for almost 15 years and feel very ‘at home’ – both known and knowing people.
So, without doing a ‘mystery worshipper’, how did it feel?
A fleeting visit to Portadown is a chance to visit all the complicated feelings about the place in which we lived for 19 years, where so many of our friends are, where the children grew up, where ministry was more intense than it is ever likely to be again ..
Life does move on – but I missed it on Christmas Eve – missed the midnight service when young people whom I have known since they were children come home and come to church with their families. [More than Christmas Eve sentiment there – visit Belfast Airport at any time in the week before Christmas and you, like me, will be moved to tears by the sight of the best of Northern Ireland’s young people coming home from all the other communities to which have chosen to bring their talents and energies.] Names and faces of people are still pretty fresh in the mind – I was afraid that they would have shifted from the front of my mind into the archive section. Terence, my successor, will be instituted at the end of February – a year after we left. It’s a bit like how it must be when a former spouse remarries. It produces complicated feelings of regret, shifting loyalties and [quite properly] of doors closing firmly.