Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Me and Church

There is a girl at primary school who is picked on more than me.  I am an outsider, my mum is not well and so I am an easy target; but surprisingly Bess is from one of the old village families.  The reason she is picked on is that her family are poor, her four much older siblings all live at home and she shares her parent's bedroom; in her innocence Bess told someone and this makes her a pariah.   Inevitably, as isolated children, we become friends.  Bess goes to church every Sunday on her own and I am invited to accompany her.  My parents see this as a definite sign of eccentricity - religion playing no part in our family life - but agree I should go as I imagine it gives them a few hours of peace and quiet.

The church isn't actually in our village, but in a little hamlet just ten minutes away.  You can get there either by walking along the main road, risking death by crossing on the blind corner or you can walk along the disused railway line.  Then up the lane that led to home farm, a manor house with an octagonal folly and the church.The churchyard was dark and gloomy, worn gravestones surrounded by trees and yew hedges - it was absolutely terrifying and Bess and I made the best of it by scaring each other silly.

 The Rector (who ministered to three or four churches) was a lovely man and was always welcoming.  Church was never full; there would be the Rector, me, Bess, the local doctor and his daughter - who played the organ and a few elderly ladies.  The service seemed to go on for hours; a long sermon and a short one, lots of hymns (the best bit in my opinion - especially 'Praise my Soul the King of Heaven' -).

My devotion to the church continued for some years and I went through a stage of telling people I wanted to be a nun - this may either have been influenced by 'Black Narcissus' - could never decide if I wanted to be Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr - I salute you) or crazy Sister Ruth (amazing hair as well) or it might even have been The Sound of Music.   Occasionally Bess and I slipped from our spiritual path; greed getting the better of us we would spend our collection money on  sweets and then couldn't go to church empty handed.

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