I spent Monday night in the pub finishing the confirmation preparation of a guy in my church.
He and I are very different people. He’s working class, I’m not. He finished his education when he left school, I’ve got three degrees. He’s a joiner and I can’t cut a piece of wood straight. We’ve got two things in common; we live in houses we don’t own and we go to the same church.
His wife was confirmed two years ago. Since then, most Sundays, she has turned up with the whole family. I figured my guy would last about two weeks. Two years later here he is sitting in a pub with me getting prepped for confirmation.
You don’t see many guys like him in churches like mine. In secular British society (and on the estate where the church is based) there are no brownie points or respectability to be gained from going to church. If anyone is interested at all that you go to church the question would be: “why?”
But on Sunday morning you’ll find him there, chatting to old ladies, singing hymns, listening to sermons, fixing broken stuff for us and generally being part of the whole enterprise. At first he respectfully declined to receive communion. Now at my prompting he comes up for a blessing and looks really happy when he does.
So here we are in the pub talking about the church. I asked him the “why” question the other night. He just said, “I feel better when I’ve been.” Fair enough I say.
We chatted around a few things as we sipped our beer and then I made the observation: what other setting in our town would lead to two guys like us to sitting in a pub enjoying a pint? What could bring lives that understandably run in parallel lines to a meeting point on a regular basis?
We talked around it a bit and came to the conclusion that our humble church has offered us a place where we can make sense of the world in a way that isn’t based on class, income, education, housing or job descriptions. I know this isn’t always true of churches (Anglican or otherwise) but it is always a possibility.
Over the last couple of weeks St Paul’s Cathedral has inadvertently offered a public vision of the church as a confused dinosaur that can’t see the right path. In light of that, it’s been good to sit in Wetherspoons celebrating a small local demonstration of how the church can bring people together and unite them in looking towards a better life for all.