I have had some jolly community-based events this week. The first one was my men’s group in Frome when two young Christian pioneers were telling us how they wanted to help spread the Christian gospel and meet people on their own terms without any form of judgment or preaching. Holy Trinity Church in Frome, so I was told, has a Friday night caravan which is towed into the city center and is available for homeless people to Have a chat, a drink of tea or coffee, and the chance to share their problems and situations if they wish.
The caravan arrives at 11 PM on Friday and closes at 1:30 AM. The Vicar, Graham Owen and his wife Leslie are a charismatic couple embracing everyone irrespective of race or creed as they say. Leslie is into hugging everybody that moves. A quality to be a good hugger is a requirement to be someone who is relaxed about their own bodies and loves and accepts themselves otherwise the whole thing can become forced.
Thursday, we have our version of the Holy Trinity Church in Paulton. We have in service at 11 o’clock followed by a delicious lunch. This is typical of a congregational initiative. Someone thought it would be a good idea to have midweek communion for those who could not manage the weekends due to commitments and so there were 12 of us there sitting up in the chancel. The Vicar asked me to read the gospel just as the service was about to start. He handed me a slip of paper with the verses on and I did I was told. I think informality has a lot to commend it, it definitely makes people more relaxed.
For lunch, we had a choice of haddock or egg mayonnaise, lasagna for the main course, and a wide variety of salads followed by a delicious strawberry cheesecake with ice cream all for the enormous sum of £3 but in fact most people give more.
Today was a gardening day. We are attending to a very bored or should I say lonely 84-year-old lady whose bungalow garden had deteriorated since her husband died a dozen years ago. She took a great interest in our proceedings and sat there in the back porch and watched us the whole day. I only found it very slightly irritating to be watched the time but then I thought that she spends most of her day staring at the four walls with only a minor period watching TV, so real-life people in the garden must’ve been quite something for her. She seems to have been pleased about what we did. She was fairly deaf and we had to repeat everything twice. Eventually I resorted to almost shouting but trying to avoid sounding rude. The world definitely closes in wit this affliction.
Her property was in a very modest estate in Paulton, Somerset. I note that it is very easy to engage in in conversation with an already existing community. The woman across the road told us after about 2 min. conversation that her husband had died of an aneurysm and that she had to learn to look after the garden herself. Without prompting she offered me a glass of lemonade seeing as I was sweating. It was clear that everybody knew everybody else on the estate; the major factor preventing people from going outside is lack of health, the inability to walk, or in a case of another customer I’ve just spoken to, dizzy spells, which has meant that she has had to sell her car and is thinking of getting a mobility scooter.
I think that person for person there is far more community life in the country than in a city or perhaps the community life in conurbations is differently expressed in terms of work colleagues and the social life revolving around what we do for our living during the day. In London there are significant clusters of ethnic minorities so that each country has its own representation for example Cypriots, Hungarians, Indians and Pakistanis obviously, a strong and expressive Polish community in most towns of any size, the French community which is in Kensington in London. It is in small cities where people of color in the distinct minority that the difficulty arises. Chinese and Indian people tend to work in the service industries or restaurants so I suppose do not get much of a life. Racial prejudice is present in the country just as much as anywhere else, but perhaps more subtly expressed.