As a strong proponent of church unity, I feel slightly guilty (but only slightly ) at missing two consecutive joint services. Last Sunday evening was Together in Praise at the Congregational church. But my cousin and his wife from Australia were visiting. Using a deferred salary scheme Richard and Pip have taken a year's leave of absence to tour Europe. They'd just completed their Scottish leg, and stopped off overnight to visit us, before an early start for Edinburgh and a flight to Cork.
I've not seen Richard for over thirty years, and never met Pip, but we got on fine. Can't remember what we talked about – life in Scotland and in Oz, catching up with family, that sort of thing. I do remember a lot of discussion on education. Elizabeth and I love schools ministry and I was a school governor for three years in Essex – Richard and Pip have both worked in schools for some years. Interesting to hear that the politicians down under like to meddle as much as ours do! Best bit was Sunday dinner. Sometime around 5pm we all ended up in the kitchen diner (nicely appointed courtesy of The Salvation Army and local builder Blair & Paterson) while Elizabeth prepared dinner. In no time we were all chipping in. The experience of communal cooking and eating was fantastic.
Ministry is great (most of the time) but officers and ministers tend to be treated as a race apart. Preparation for Sunday's meeting and the two funerals on the Monday immediately following Richard and Pip's departure had left us exhausted. The time with our Aintipodean cousins made us feel like real human beings for a while.