Friday, 16 March 2012

Hitchin a Ride

The so-called "Archdruid" who lives next door to me claims to be an expert on Dunstable. Before I set off this morning to bring the True Light to those who live in the darkness of the shadow of the Vale of Aylesbury, she told me that Dunstable is a place more associated with the Protestant Faith than most. At least, she says that due to the divorce there of Henry VIII at the Abbey (which he rewarded by dissolving), the Dunstablians are closely associated with the English Reformation. They have traditions that Oliver Cromwell's soldiers shot bullets at the church doors. The Methodist Church dwarfs the Church of England equivalent. And in the 80s it was the home of the New Covenant Church - now reduced, she believes, to renting time from the Methodists while their old home has reverted to being the West Street Baptists. But in its day, the New Covenant Church was a true beacon of the Protestant, Charismatic, Baptist faith.

And so one might have thought that the people of Dunstable are ready for one more in a stream of the holy homecomings that have clearly marked their history. But it seems not. Instead, the inhabitants cling to one of the other local  traditions.

In her more mellow moments, the Archdruid talks of the old Luton tradition whereby people suffer a moderate form of kidnapping. In  short, they used to grab their unsuspecting victim, thrown them in a car and throw them out a little later in Hitchin. "The long winter nights used to fly past", in Eileen's words.

But I never dreamed that this was how I would have to suffer for my faith. Imagine the scene  outside a boarded-up shop in the Quadrant, as the people of Dunstable call their shopping centre.

"Friends, I bring the words that can save you from Perdition!" I shouted.

"What petition's that, then?" asked a local, "is it to get rid of the bus lane in Church Street?"

I explained that Perdition was a state of endless torment in a joyless, dark, half-alive state. They said they would not sign a petition in favour of that, and said that to avoid things like that they voted Tory.

Changing my tack - for I am all things to all men - I moved straight to the Good News "Your iniquities are expunged!" I cried. "Righteousness imputeth he unto you, like unto the oil that runneth down the beard of Aaron."

A young listener was asking if she could have subtitles, when a group of large men in hoodies appeared. I was dragged down the ramp, shouting that "His intercessions are sufficient for your sanctification." I was bundled into a car, and spent half an hour with a couple of the ruffians sitting on my chest until I was thrown out in Hitchin.

The Baptibus was in Dunstable. I never travel on my evangelistic pilgrimages with money, in strict accordance with Matt 10:9-10. In that passage the Lord did not forbid us the use of mobile phones, of course. But when I called people to come unto my aid, my deacons were at work. Meanwhile Kylie and Kayleigh said they were "working on a tricky diminished chord", while Marjory was watching something that appears to have been called "Jeremy Kyle", and apparently had to wait for the results of a DNA test. Few seem to stop for hitch-hikers these days, and I found myself struggling in a fearful state up the A505. As a women's football team went past in their club minibus, one of them seemed to think it was amusing to throw a bowl of orange peel over me. Such is the result of allowing women to play at such unwomanly activities.

Eventually I was picked up by a couple who turned out to belong to a strange religious cult, and spent the rest of the journey to Luton trying to convert me to believing that Eric Clapton was God. After a four mile walk from Luton to Dunstable, I returned to the car to discover that the operators of the Farm Foods car park had issued me with a parking ticket for overstaying my journey. The irony was that I was parked just outside the little Baptist book shop. Truly, today I have cried out to God from the pit of despair.

It is of course our aim to emulate the great heroes of the faith. But on this occasion I could not help feeling that Paul had things easy in Ephesus. Dunstablians, as Eileen remarked during this morning's conversation, are a tough crowd.


  1. "a state of endless torment in a joyless, dark, half-alive state."

    Otherwise known as a Friday night at the Winston Churchill.

  2. Yes, it makes you wonder why do the wicked prosper?

  3. "Arr, I mun go out in one o' they Ford vans and put the fear of God into the heathen", quoth Amos

  4. The dear ol van be off the road near a twelve month arter the gander untwiddled all the tyre valves an chucked em in the frog pool. He do his best to keep the fear on the road but tis heavy work on the ole Raleigh.


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