And so, once again this morning, my peace was shattered as Drayton Parslow's "Baptibus" headed off to parts unknown beyond Olney and Northampton. It takes its grand circular journey, collecting people whom Drayton has evangelised with the promise of a free trip and biscuits - oh, and the Gospel, of course. Though it's the holes in his exhaust that cause me most grief, at 7am of the typical Sunday.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm as big a fan of pilgrimage as the next medium-sized religious community leader. Or even the next leader of a medium-sized religious community. Walsingham, St Albans, the Rollright Stones, Thomas Hardy's Birthplace, Compo's Grave - I've been to them all. But I don't go to them every week. That would be odd. We go to these places to breath the sacred air; to connect; to buy tacky souvenirs. (Did you know you can get a St Alban drinks coaster? That's always seemed wrong to me, putting your coffee mug on a saint's face like that). Except at the Rollrights, of course. Where the hut keeps disappearing. Not a miracle - more vandalism.
But the point of going these special places is that it's special. We regard them, if we are of that tendency, as "thin". And we envy those whose role it is to mind them.
Whereas taking a long journey every week, to go to a specific congregation because it's the one we like - that seems odd. Sure, if it's one's family church and it's part of the weekly familial visit then I can see that. But is the Gospel so much better proclaimed by Drayton that they'll sit in that rusty death-trap for an hour to hear it? Are there no prophets in Buckingham, that Sid the minibus driver has to go all the way out there on his rounds? Why travel from Luton - which is full of places of worship - all the way out here, because Drayton's brand of Creationism says the world started on a Sunday in August rather than, as some heretics claim, March? I don't get it.
It's not like the evangelicals of the world think these are proper "thin places". They have been known to go specific places to where the Spirit is working. But why would the Holy Spirit decide she's going to act more evidently around one area then anywhere else? Or, given God's sovereignty, why would we make the assumption that, if she did, she'll keep that up when we arrive? Maybe it's us blighting the spiritual atmosphere in the place where we live, and deciding we're going to rock up with hope in our heart and a well-worn version of the NIV might be just the thing required for the Wind to "blow where it will" somewhere completely different.
So I'll be out next Saturday night, helping God to work his wonders right where people live. Or, to put it another way, I'm gonna stick a potato in the exhaust pipe of the Baptibus. I need the peace.