* warning: this post contains words of a rude and crude nature. It is not something I make a habit of in my normal language and this blog reflects that. However, in the context of this post, the swearing is essential.
** note: this is quite a long post and I am not sure what etiquette there is with regards to long blog posts and if they should be split into parts or not. If you have a comment or suggestion to make on that, especially if you think this post would have benefitted from being split, then I’d love to read it.
A good friend of mine is a part time vicar (PTV), he spends the other half of the week doing his day job. We’ve been friends for the past 20 years. We’ve not really seen much of each other in the last 10, partly due to us now being separated by many miles. This happens in long tern friendships, people move away, get married and their life changes. Some friendships disappear due to lack of contact, some manage to survive and some simmer along, never really going away, but also never managing to remain at the same level of quality.
That latter part defines this friendship well. PTV and I had a very strong friendship many years ago, we’ve both shared deep and personal things and talked the world away late into the night during varying stages of brevity.
We’ve both moved away from the town in which we met, both got married and both become parents. Our lives now revolve around very different people and places, but we’ve managed to retain a tender connection and it was a wonderful pleasure to see him get married last weekend and stag night three weeks ago.
PTV is most definitely the one person in my circle who I could tell about my current state of thinking towards Christianity and know for certain that I am still a valued friend and that I am not being judged. Maybe I will tell him soon, I am certainly entertaining the idea of confiding in him before being more open to my wife about it.
PTV’s first marriage ended traumatically and he is very critical of the lack of support his in-laws provided to the marriage. To his mind, the decision to terminate the marriage was made very early and his wife’s family simply took the view that termination was better than salvation. Her family is very wealthy and he stood no chance in a fight and so his only choice to turn belly up and surrender to the inevitable. He is especially bitter about not being given a chance to salvage the marriage; he’s not even sure what went wrong or what he could have done differently to prevent it.
Sadly, I was not around to provide support to PTV during those dark years, but he did have other close friends so he wasn’t totally without support, just without the support he needed most, which I could not have provided either. In hindsight I wish I could have been in touch with him regularly enough to help him, and I know that if he’d turned up on my doorstep I’d have accommodated him without question. However, that’s water long since flowed by and no amount of wishing can change the past, so its pointless trying.
Right now the future looks wonderful for PTV and for that I am immensely happy.
The totally Irreverent Stag do
It had actually been a few years since I’d seen PTV when I attended his stag do. Something that I hope never happens again. It was a good night out, which basically revolved around drinking in several pubs and finishing the evening around a pool table, by which time I was the only sober person in the group.
PTV likes his booze, and hanging out with him that evening reminded me of the days 20 years ago when we’d have parties round my flat on a Saturday, sing popular songs badly, get drunk and generally behave like the immature 20 years olds that we were. Then of course on the Sunday evening the same flat would be tidied up, the guitars would come out and we’d all sing good Christian worship songs and have a bible study, like the mature responsible 20 year Christians that we were.
The stag do started with a quiz, written by PTV, to test the music knowledge of those assembled. Being a stag do, there was a very male centric element to the questions. Sporadic conversation during this opening hour also turned to PTV role in the church and those he answered to, there was some catching up to after all.
PTV was wonderfully unreserved and unashamed in his comments and opinions. He is a no nonsense guy and this is one of the qualities about him which I dearly love. I was very glad to be back in his life again.
I saw some of the 20 year old I knew so well that evening, a 20yo that has managed to be unpolluted by the experiences of the past 20 years. He let slip that there had been more than one bishop that he answers to that he has told to ‘fuck off’. Now I’m not sure if he meant that literally or figuratively, but his use of the phrase and the context leads me to believe that its far more likely to be literal. One should not ignore the influence of alcohol at this point, but PTV is precisely the sort of chap who I believe would and could tell a bishop to fuck off.
There was some other discussion about church policy and the risk of him being defrocked if his language and attitude didn’t change. PTV’s summary of the situation was along the lines of ‘The Church of England is so bloody liberal that whatever you tell them you believe, that’ll say its fine’, and of his job prospects, he shrugged his shoulders and suggested that they’d never try to sack him.
Later on in the evening I raised the Adam and Eve issue (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/the-problem-of-adam-and-eve/), it wasn’t really the time or the place to have an in depth discussion with him, but he did unreservedly acknowledge that it causes a problem for original sin and subsequent salvation through Jesus. I have no idea if I’ll be able to have a proper grown up type chat with him on the subject, we shall see.
On to the Wedding.
The wedding was Saturday afternoon, it was a busy weekend for us as the family limey are now on the countdown to our big move and change of lifestyle. My in-laws are also moving to the same seaside town, they move next week, so plenty going on in that part of the family too. My brother and his fiancé came to stay with us for the weekend too, they marry early next year, so lots to talk about and arrange their too. So basically, life for my family is vary full these days, which is wonderful.
This meant that only I attended the wedding. There was no chance I was going to miss the wedding, PTV is an important person in my life, even if the main parts were a long time ago, it was very important for me to go, but the whole family could not go due to the amount of stuff going on, so only I went.
The bride looked fabulous, her long white gown and short train looked elegant on her and she radiated beauty from the second I saw her, in fact she probably radiated long before that. I brought to mind that PTV had admitted to getting to know her through a Christian dating website. She had contacted him within a few days of him signing up. I had to smile at that, because, if you’ll forgive the blunt male talk for a second, a woman with a figure and a face like hers is never going to have a problem finding a suitor. Then of course I remember the key word, Christian, ahh the murky waters of Christian mixing of the sexes! A little bit more on that later.
The service was overly Christian, and all the songs I knew well, so sang them as I would normally. The second song was a well known “Be Thou my Vision”, played with a rousing drum rhythm and I sung it with gusto, I was here to celebrate this union and the happiness of PTV, my friend; so I sung it loud and I sung it heartily and I enjoyed it. I hope my neighbours appreciated my enthusiasm.
Both bride and groom lifted a hand skyward during the song and I recalled the events of the stag evening and I smiled as I remembered another muttering of PTV on the evening of the stag do.
PTV had been asked about living together and he’d said that he would have not had a problem with living together prior to the marriage, but that there were members of his congregation who most certainly would have had a problem, so future Mrs PTV would not be moving in until after the honeymoon. I briefly pondered on the most stumbling of issues that comes up when Christians get married and decided that yes, PTV and future Mrs PTV have indeed engaged in PMS. I shall not judge, for I don’t care, and I shall not ask because its not my business.
The Wedding car!
This is really very cool and so I have to mention it.
The two parties in this wedding are each bringing two children into the new family that is being created. This required a genius choice of transport, to get from church to reception place. The children were a major part of the wedding and so the transport had to accommodate. The transport which turned up, which I already knew about as it had been revealed at the stag do; was an A-Team van. A proper GMC van, with burbling big capacity engine and the right colour scheme, blasting out the A-Team theme on repeat. Oh it was wonderful! You could see all the kids, eyes bulging with excitement, and all the fathers wishing they’d had the balls to book the same thing for their wedding, while trying to act unimpressed in front of their wives.
Oh the dancing!
The evening reception was a fun shindig, food was a finger buffet, speeches were intentionally light, just being a toast and a thank you, no amusing anecdotes and no mysteries from the past. Bride and groom each made their thanks and then the best man proposed a toast to the couple. That was it and it was on to the dancing.
Every wedding has one! The lone dancer with seemingly endless energy who will out last everyone on the dance floor and will be carried protesting when the last song ends. He, for its always a he, will get so animated in the heavy beat tracks that one will wonder how his head remains attached to his body. His shirt will be dripping with sweat and when he’s not on the dance floor, he’ll be outside cooling down in the night air. If you’re not a dance floor regular, you’ll know the person in question because as the evening progresses he’ll get more and more hoarse as he shouts out the songs that accompany his gyroscopic gymnastics.
Well, this weekend, it was my turn to be that guy!
It turned out that I really was the only man there without a partner, in fact I think I was the only adult there without a partner. Not that I was looking for them partner related action, in case anyone is wondering. It just meant that getting onto the dance floor meant not having someone to dance with, so caring went out the window and a fun boogie was had.
It turned out that a there were a number of ladies who enjoyed dancing too, though their partners were not so keen. So I spent a lot of time on the dance floor next to half a dozen ladies dancing together but never exchanging any eye contact! As it happens all the ladies concerned (and their partners) are from the bride’s church so were good Christian ladies. Ouch, that reads quite condescending, that’s not how its intended, so pleasure bear with me.
I’ve been to end of year parties with work colleagues of mine and my wife’s and dancing with other people partners (not slow dancing I might add) has never been an issue and nor has being in a group with ladies I don’t know, there is always eye contact and a smile, but never any hint of inappropriateness.
Yet that evening I was frustrated by it. Is it really such a crime to exchange eye contact on the dance floor? I don’t know why it suddenly became.
In the end I spent a good deal of time dancing with a two teenage lads, who were cousins of the bride, and the girlfriend of one of said lads. These were people less than half my age and I had a good deal of fun with them and found out a bit about them. Yet the Christian ladies sharing the dance floor with me couldn’t even look me in the eye.
Thinking back to it, I feel very sad.
Maybe my enthusiastic exertions marked me out as someone to be avoided. That was the wisdom spoken by my brother the next morning at breakfast.
I didn’t even get much chat from the husbands when I helped clear up the hall and pack the chairs away and the end of the evening; so who knows what was going on. Its just weird and sad that I can have more fun at a celebration like that with teenagers I have never met am old enough to have fathered than with people my own age.
Well, this post is way too long already so I’ll just finish with the promise of the intention to keep PTV as a greater part of my life. I will be writing to him soon to post a CD of the 200+ photos I took during the day and maybe to let him know my status of faith currently, I’m still deciding on that last bit.