Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday Supplement: My Way

Sir Richard Arcos writes: Resuming my peripatetic and occasional tours of the country, I decided to drop in this Sunday at the Acle Straight Free Will Baptist Church. Having for some years been pastor of a Free Grace Baptist Church, I was a little curious to see what goes on in a Free Will Baptist Church. In addition, I do happen to be getting on a bit, and if they were offering free Wills, I thought it might save me a little bit of money. Not that it's tight or anything, it's just that one of my daughters is likely to rather need as much help as she can when I shuffle off this mortal coil. I was handed a book of hymns at the door, and sat down in a quiet pew. The organ played while the chapel filled, people chatting, playing hopscotch, cards, or whatever elese took their fancy.

The service started at about eleven. I say 'about eleven' advisedly, because there seemed to be no set time, people drifting in and out of the building when they felt like it. When the pastor entered the pulpit, about half the congregation ignored him and went on talking. Several people were in a heated discussion, which went on for most of the service. When the first hymn was announced, several people uttered quite loud expressions of disagreement, and two walked out, muttering darkly. Several other people declared that they did not want to sing that particular hymn, and sung another one instead, turning the opening of the service into a rather odd cacophony. The couple behind me shouted that they wanted some minor key hymns, while another chap said he only did rousing hymns.

The Bible reading was announced, but several people declared that they didn't want that passage, others saying they thought the prayer should be next. Someone else suggested the sermon. I was tempted to suggest they all went home, but, after a rather chaotic ad hoc meeting, a vote was taken, and the Bible was read. A couple of carefully selected passages, to do with the 'Whosoever wills' of Christ. Someone fired a pea-shooter at the pastor half way through. He beamed and said that if that was their free will, he accepted it.
The long prayer consisted of thanking God for giving us free wills, and asking God to do certain things, if people wanted Him to do them. I did rather wonder whether it might not, given that theology, have made more sense to ask the people in question. Another hymn was sung, and the collection plate was passed round. It was twice emptied by people who felt like helping themselves to the money. This, since it was their exercise of their free will, seemed to be perfectly aceptable. Someone else challenged one of these chaps, and got knocked out.

The sermon was greeted with cries of annoyance, which were only silenced when the pastor promised not to take more than fifteen minutes. Then some other people declared they wanted a half-hour sermon. The pastor suggested a compromise on twenty minutes, whereupon the entire congregation (except the couple behind me), declared that their free will was being violated, and walked out. I think they went to the pub.
The couple behind me explained that this happens every week. We played snap for the remainder of the service, while the pastor preached and the organist played the organ, both to their hearts' content.
After which, since I was feeling a little peckish, I motored down to Trunch Free Grub Baptist Church, who do a very good spread.