Trouble at t’mill. A colleague of mine in my disastrous schoolteaching career (see previous definitions of this word) used to use this phrase a lot – whenever anyone was looking down or troubled he would say, in a fake Northern accent, “Trouble at t’mill?”
It was funny the first twenty times.
Anyway, on Sunday there was trouble at t’church. I had a great birthday yesterday, even though Steven didn’t get around to making me a cake ( I suspect it was the duck eggs that did it) – had breakfast in the park, went to philosophy where my new friend Claire gave me some postcards of paintings by an artist she knows and various people wished me a happy birthday, then was met by Mary, Mark and the children and we went for lunch. Strawberry shortcake in the afternoon (as is traditional).
Presents: an MP3 player and a boxed set of Leonard Cohen CD’s (yes I think it’s safe to listen to him again). Plus, a bottle of wine and some glasses.
Great! But some people have gone weird (you know who you are).
But then church. Great service – apart from the sermon. I can’t remember the guy’s name – he’s a lay preacher – and the subject was adultery. Now I don’t know what i was expecting (probably not a guide to how to commit it) but it started off fairly predictably. Adultery is wrong. It is not good. It is damaging.
“OK,” I thought, “I can get on board with this. Yes, I can accept that lust is potentially destructive and that breaking your marriage vows is not a good thing.” So far, so good. But it went on. Not only sex outside marriage but sex before marriage is a Bad Thing. “Hmm”, I thought. Not especially helpful. After all, what is virginity? It’s not a Thing – it’s the absence of a thing. So what does it mean to say, as he did, that “You can’t get your virginity back”?
So I was feeling a little squirmy with discomfort – and at this point he started to talk about homosexuality. Now I know this is controversial but in today’s climate I would have hoped at least for some reasoned and helpful comments – or if not, some compassion and sense of reaching out to those in this state, if you believe it to be wrong. Instead, we heard that (I don’t remember the exact words but I think this was the gist of it) homosexuals and fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of god.
At this point i decided that I needed some time out, so I went to the toilet. I then decided that I needed some more time out, so I went to enjoy the sunshine for a while. As i sat outside I noticed a man crying and being supported by a woman. I eventually went to ask if I could help and found that this was a gay man who had recently started coming to the church. I felt very sad for him and quite cross about how he was now upset and felt excluded. Fortunately, he was intending to speak to the vicar about it, so that was good.
I ought also to say that our experience of Trinity so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and that in any church there will be people with whom you don’t see eye to eye. However, I think there are many ways of tackling the issue of sexual behaviour and some are more helpful than others!