Sunday, 24 June 2012

Finding God Where You Aren't

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.


  1. Did you realise that your background is Farrow & Ball Arsenic? You're quite fashionable!

  2. Not far off, Chairman. This background is #85c797. F&B's "Arsenic" is #81B090. So maybe we're just vaguely fashionable?

  3. I wonder if your friedly community bobby ever checks the minibus for it's road worthiness, because if he did, he could give Drayton and his driver enough penalty points to keep them off the road for a year or so.

    You could do your civic duty and report them, and have them picked up with a bus full of worshippers, who would than have to walk home. That would sort the problem of outlying parishioners, who would soon find somewhere more convenient to cause trouble.

  4. God comes to us wherever we are... Minibus or no. Maybe a collection needs to be taken for the repair of the minibus rather than sniffling the Gospel in all it's wacky ways of distribution. Just saying'...

  5. Dang auto-guesser.. Sniffling should have been stifling

  6. Fashionable is as fashionable does - whatever that means...

  7. I like the phrase "sniffling" the Gospel - brings to mind all those quiche-eating, Kagoule-wearing, orange-squash-drinking, tamborine-waving, cheery-grin days of yore....

  8. 'Sniffing the Gospel' reminds me of the Vicar kissing the Altar Copy of the Text after reading the Gospel at HC!

    For all the world, he looks as if he is sniffing the leather bound volume - perhaps he is.


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