This story came about when I was looking back at our Sunday morning services at the cathedral in Grahamstown. There was one priest there who was such a character and he made services very interesting. To my siblings Maia, Penny and Shadreck, I think this will tickle you.
It was Sunday morning again. It was the middle of winter and there was sure to be frost on the grass outside. Our father insisted that we attend the morning prayers every Sunday at the cathedral of the holy cross. I did not mind attending the services so much, there was a certain calmness and predictability with the services. You always knew what to expect.
This has been the standard of course but recently we have had a new priest, Father Rob. He started holding the services about a few months back. He had started making the services something to look forward to. Not because he was a particularly good priest but rather because of his strange behaviour. Most times he seemed to be drunk or in some sort of trance. Only last Sunday he had nodded off during the Eucharist. He sometimes mumbled his way through scripture readings and did not seem to know when it was his turn to speak. It was very funny to watch him throughout these service. He could however sing very well and his voice boomed through the church as he enthusiastically sung his heart out.
We got ready and started walking towards the church, we always walked in silence and we tried to fight sleep and the cold. It was a good ten-minute walk and as I thought there was frost on the grass and our breathes looked like someone smoking a vapour. We rounded the corner towards the main road in the town. We could see the church right at the end of the high street, the street was empty and only a few people could be seen walking towards the church. The cathedral was large and its spire was tall and you could see the large bells hanging at the centre. You could hear those bells from anywhere in the town. In its glory days, the church must have housed large congregations. Now only a few people attended morning services and we scarcely filled the pews.
As we approached the entrance, old Mr Nettleton the head usher shook our hands as we entered the church and gave us a smile. I lead the way into the church bowed at the alter and moved into the third pew. We sat for a while in silence and waited for the service to begin.
Father Rob entered the church and we stood for the blessing. He seemed to be in high spirits and he walked to the benches at the back of the church behind the lectern-pulpit. He waved at the congregation and stumbled over a step and sat down. He was wearing his black and white cassock and his greying hair seemed to have a mind of its own and stood up in places. we stood waiting for him to offer the blessing but he remained sitting. Someone coughed loudly.
“Oh yes, right “he said and stood up.
“Well in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit. Be blessed and let us start the service. You may be seated” he called loudly and sat down.
The services went without a hitch as deacons approached the pulpit and read scripture and prayers from the prayer book. I watched father Rob every now and then and he did doze off a few times but when we sung hymns he seemed to bolt upright and stand up far too quickly.
It came time for him to offer his sermon. He seemed to have forgotten his cue again and remained standing after the hymn. I looked over to where the deacons were sitting and someone seemed to be waving at father Rob from the opposite side of where he sat. he waved back. We stifled giggles. A few minutes passed and the deacon was now red in the face and gesturing openly for him to stand up and go to the pulpit. This was getting too much. He finally seemed to get the point and he walked joyfully towards the pulpit. I think I heard a sigh of relief from someone.
“Good morning church. Today’s service is about com com.. comfort, yes. The lord comforts us all in many ways” he began.
He looked down at the notes he was holding and cleared his throat.
“C-o-m-fort. We are all Gods lovely loving children and without his comfort we cannot begin to start our day. Is it not so ladies and gentlemen? What we need today is a big hug from the lord and a breath of his most comforting spirit and we can strive” he chuckled at this.
“Well yes that is why we come here isn’t it, to feel that comfort and to hold it dear to our hearts and be blessed by it. In the name of the father, and of the son and the holy spirit. Go now and feel the lords comfort today,” he smiled eagerly at us gave a bow and closed his eye clutching his chest.
He stood there for a minute. There was utter silence. One thing I liked about the morning service was that the sermons were long. But this was the shortest sermon I had ever heard. Everyone was staring at him. I looked around and some of the congregation was frowning. He opened his eyes and started making his way down from the pulpit. He came to the front of the church and gave the benediction. We were free to go.