All-in-all it had been another pleasant evening. Geoff had announced to the dancers that someone had suggested a coach trip. He had asked people for ideas as to destination, and he’d casually thrown them possibilities such as Blackpool, Skipton or Llandudno. Blackpool received fairly general approval – though it was agreed that a decision should be delayed until some absent members had had a chance to hear the idea and air their views.
Friday 8th April The Vicarage
Sheila welcomed Steve into her living room at the Vicarage and invited him to sit in one of the two armchairs. The large, modern, detached house had replaced the original stone building some years ago. It was on the opposite side of Eastway from the church, on a corner of Croxton Road. Behind the armchairs, large, double-glazed windows looked out onto a farmer’s fields behind the house and shielded the room from road noise. The room was warm, recently decorated and bookshelves lined one wall.
Sheila was married to a freelance travel-photographer who was out of the country at the moment on an assignment. She was in her mid-forties and of average height and build. She was dressed in black and wearing her clerical collar – probably in recognition of her expected role in the meeting.
“I’m glad that you asked to meet me to discuss your course, Steve,” she said, “I’d been meaning to have your appraisal of your progress soon anyway.”
Steve sighed, nervously. He didn’t relish what he would need to say.
“Thanks for agreeing to see me Sheila,” he began, “The truth is that progress is a difficult word to use in the circumstances. As I hinted on the phone, my ‘progress’ lately has not been in the direction I intended when I started the course. I’m really thankful for the insights I now have, but I need to discuss with you not only the changes in my thinking, but also the consequences.”
“Ok, Steve, I can see where this is probably leading already. I can also see how concerned you are but, let me give you some reassurance before you expand on what you have said. You are far from being the first person to feel the way you do having been on the Readers’ course. There are other people who have reached similar crossroads in their faith during studies for ordination as vicars. So, feel free to be completely open with me,” she smiled, “I’m not about to excommunicate you.”
A weight fell off his shoulders.
“I need to begin with a bit of history,” he said, “Neither Marjorie nor I had ever really been churchgoers until the visiting Mission in the early 1990s. I had a conversion experience during one of the evenings and went forward for a blessing and welcome prayers. Marjorie didn’t. She felt that the whole thing was theatrics. She continued to come to church with me because she felt that it was right she should do so as my wife, but we had difficulties talking about our differences. She felt that I was trying to convert her. I started going to house groups and joined in lots of church activities, but she started to feel neglected. She hated it if I prayed for her, but I had become a fervent believer. Not long afterwards she left me. My son had seen the growing acrimony between his parents and blamed me when she left. It has taken him a long while to forgive me.”
“I found ways to reconcile what had happened with my beliefs, but my faith was unshaken. Perhaps, no, probably, it should have been – but more of that in a moment. I continued my regular church attendance and, if anything, increased my involvement in different roles in the congregation. That was the situation when you started as Vicar here. You will remember George recommending that I would be a suitable candidate for Readership.”
She nodded, smiling, and indicated with her hand that he should go on.
Because this, and the next couple of posts are going to be about Steve’s crisis of faith, I’m using shots of different churches that I’ve photographed over the years.
For my featured photo, I used my 26 MP Fujifilm X-T4 cropped sensor mirrorless camera with a Fujinon XF 10-24 mm f/4 lens to take the shots. The shot is of a small, local mission church’s vicarage.
The EXIF data for the featured photo were: the shutter speed was 1/10secs @ f/5.6 and 24 mm. The ISO was 200.