Recently the old vicar here died, at the venerable age of a hundred and two. He went to sleep during a hymn and woke up dead. His replacement, the Rev. Bryan Braynded is a member of the newer school of vicars (this isn't hard, I must admit), and has made a name for himself is the field of contemporaryChristian music. His chorus I Love Him made him famous in contemporary Christian Music circles (it consists of those three words repeated 1200 times). And so, with repidation, I approached St. Andrew & St. Silas for the 11am service.
I was greeted by a young man with something purporting to be a beard. He handed me a booklet with a sticky plastic cover, which I promptly gave back, telling him it needed to be washed before anyone handled it again. He looked at me strangely, at which point I looked back even more strangely. He turned to talk to someone else, so I waited quietly until the conversation was well under way, at which point I shouted 'boo!' so loudly that both jumped. I got a clean book.
At the comencement of the service, the 'worship band' under the chancel arch started playing some sort of soft folk music. Some people got up and started singing. At which point the Rev. Braynded entered. His right hand is held up, having got stuck there after a nine hour 'worship' session some years ago.
The bidding prayer was short, while the general confession was so short as to be laughable. After this the 'worship leader', a man in a tee-shirt with another semi-beard, announced that we were to sing, Jesus Lover of my Soul. I cheered up a bit here until I discovered that what he had in mind was not the wonderful hymn by Charles Wesley, but an appalling piece of doggerel which consists of the words:
Jesus, lover of my soul,
Nothing from you I withhold
Repeated until narcolepsy sets in.
After another prayer, this time rather longer, the responses in the prayer-book were set to a loud electric guitar. Some young lady did a solo, which would have been good in night-club, but I felt somewhat inappropriate in a church. After this, we were invited to join in an extended time of 'worship,' which consisted in singing inane songs for twenty minutes. The most notable was, Lord I love you, which, the hymnbook announced as:
Lord I Love you (repeat 10,000 times)
I Love you Lord (repeat 10,000 times)
You I Love Lord (repeat 10,000 times)
Apparently the rev. Braynded was not too embarrassed to attach his name to such drivel. At the end of this we were asked if we'd like to sit down. At which point the following exchange took place:
'Worship Leader': And now, if you'd like to sit down...
Sir Richard Arcos: I'd love to, but my joints have locked.
WL: If you'd like to sit down, sir...
I: Richard Arcos. As I said, I'd love to sit down. As a matter of fact, I wanted to sit down quarter of an hour ago. But I can't any more.
After some difficulties, I was allowed to apply heat to my knees until I could sit down. Sadly, the sermon lasted only fifteen minutes, less time than the singing of inane songs. It never really got going, but I reproduced the end of it:
Rev: 'Let us follow the example of Jesus, of St. Francis of Assisi, of Thomas Merton...'
I (rising): 'Merton was a heretic.'
Rev: 'Thomas Merton was one of the great spiritual visionaries of the last century.'
I: 'Merton was a trappist monk who should have vowed to write nothing as well as say nothing.'
Rev: 'I'm in charge.'
At which point the Rev. Braynded gestured to his musicians to play the closing refrain. This was hard rock number which included the female singers chanting 'Hail, Hail Lion of Judah!' The band got into the groove, and started to go to town. Rev. Braynded raised his other hand in the air, closed his eyes and began to holler, while the female soloist started to clap her hands in a way I haven't seen since I stopped following the dance bands. At which point I left the building, while the band played louder and louder until the church roof caved in.
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (Which, being translated means 'Gloria was passing sick on Monday', as any fool knows).