Thursday 31 January 2013

NO to Ecumenicals

It has long been a notion amongst Ecumenicals that it is a good idea to mix with people from other denominations, to learn from them, exchange views and create friendships hopefully leading to unity.

Well in my experience mixing with Ecumenicals can lead one astray in a direction you never intended to go to in the first place.

As I shall demonstrate.

Some Ecumenical Leaders in our church decided it would be a great idea if they arranged a joint visit to a famous shrine and invite members of a number of other denominations who are part of our Parish Ecumenical Movement. They organized the trip and publicized it widely in all the member churches as well as encouraged our congregation … coercing me more than once … to come along on the pilgrimage and show willingness and unity.

On the day in question about sixty or so people from the five different churches gathered in our church car park ready to set off in two buses waiting for us.

One of the leaders stood on a box so that he could be seen by everyone and addressed us on a portable loudspeaker.

“It is so nice to see so many of you here from our Ecumenical Family. Today we have a great opportunity to make new friends and meet new people. To this end, when you’re on the bus, and during our visit to the shrine, do not sit with people you already know from your own church. Seek out new faces. There’ll be many people you’ve never met or seen before, sit with them, smile, have a chat and welcome a new friend in your life. Mingle … mingle … and mingle some more! A stranger is a friend you’ve yet to meet. Have fun!”

“Great …” I thought, “organized fun. Just what I’ve always wanted. Because I do not have the imagination and initiative to make up my own enjoyment and have my own friends!”

I sat at the back of the bus in the hope that no one would sit next to me and I’d have a peaceful journey. No such luck.

I don’t know why, but complete strangers often stop and chat with me and tell me their life stories … in the shops, on the bus or train, in the streets, anywhere. What is it about me that attracts people to me?

Soon enough an elderly lady came and sat next to me and as the coach left the church car park she started talking.

First she said hello and introduced herself. Then she said something inane about the weather, which we often do in the UK when we have nothing better to say. After that she said how she looked forward to the shrine visit. And before you know it she was telling me her life story.

She talked about the voluntary work she did during the Second World War, about her husband dying, how she grows prize-winning azaleas, whatever they are, about her grandson Quentin and how she bakes the best steak and kidney pies. I mean … who these days calls a boy Quentin???

It was obvious the old lady wanted to talk so I nodded and smiled politely at this continuous monologue pretending to be a dialogue.

I wished I’d never agreed to go on this pilgrimage in the name of Ecumenism.

Is this how Chaucer felt on his way to Canterbury? Having to listen to tales about Quentin, azaleas and steak and kidney pies?

After about two hours of this non-stop listening to this nice but verbally diarrheic old lady the coach drew up at a pub on the way to the shrine to allow us to stretch our legs and use the amenities.

I went to the pub’s beer garden and sat at a lonely table away from everyone else to enjoy a lovely pint of Guinness.

I thought about the shrine we were visiting and about God in His infinite wisdom looking down upon us from Heaven.

What does He make of all this Ecumenical Movement? Does He approve and like the diversity of all the different Christian denominations mingling and making friends? Or would He prefer us all to be of one Church, one trade brand, with one trademark? And which one does He prefer I wander?

What does He think of us Catholics who can be a little bit fishy, especially on Fridays? Arguing amongst ourselves about different types of Masses and other such matters!

Which kind of Mass does He like? Does He enjoy Latin Gregorian chants or does He prefer guitars and waving of hands in the air? And does all that incense going up to Heaven make Him open all the windows to clear the smoke out before the smoke alarms go off?

Having had my personal discussion with God on how He could improve things down here I got up and headed towards the car park.

There was only one coach waiting there. Obviously the other one had already left and would await our arrival at the shrine.

I got in and sat somewhere totally different to avoid the non-stop-talking old lady.

Moments later the coach started filling up and a man in his forties sat next to me.

“You all right mate?” he said and I smiled back. “Did you get to the last game with Granchester?”

“No …” I mumbled, and before I could say anything else he turned round and started talking to a friend sitting behind us.

I leant my head towards the window, closed my eyes and pretended to go to sleep to avoid another unending conversation.

I must have dozed off because after about an hour of driving a few of the people at the back of the bus started singing. Strangely … these were not the familiar “Praise Songs” I’d heard so often at our prayer meetings with the Charismatic wing of our congregation.

No … these were totally new songs I’d never heard before and … wait … the lyrics are quite risqué and at times quite rude. What kind of Ecumenical types are these?

What’s going on here?

I asked the man sitting next to me which church those people at the back belong to.

“Church?” he replied, “I doubt any of them have ever seen the inside of a church … not unless they give free beer there now!”

“But … why are they going to the shrine then?” I enquired being somewhat slow on the uptake.

“We’re going to no shrine pal,” he said, “we’re off to Granchester for the football match. Where you off to?”

As I said … I don’t like Ecumenicals or anything to do with mingling with people you do not know.

I prefer a Catholic bus with a Catholic driver who knows where he’s going and people from my church whom I know well and who have nothing to do with azaleas and steak and kidney pies or Quentins!



  1. soo a former protestant, I had a rooted aversion to Catholic teachings that ONLY GOD could dismantle, no amount of discussions woulc EVER have changed my mind. I might write a post on my families horrified albeit funny response

  2. Absolutely delightful Victor!

  3. Funny! By the way, I'm an ecumenical fellow, let me tell you my life story and how I got here...



  4. Such a great story, Victor! I have the same difficulty with people yakking my ear off for hours on end :)

    I get confused by all the ecumenical stuff. I finally decided to just respect people and try not to focus too much on our differences. It doesn't always work though because I tend to get frustrated when people cut down Mother Mary or our belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

    1. I agree Mary. Some denominations actually run down The Virgin Mary or the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Our prayers will hopefully one day make them understand.

      God bless you Mary.

  5. Somethig has gone wrong with the computer.

    Jose has commented here and for some reason his comment did not appear. However, I got an email showing the coment he made. So ... with great apologies to Jose here is his original comment copy/pasted here. He said:

    "Funny! By the way, I'm an ecumenical fellow, let me tell you my life story and how I got here...



    My response -

    Thank you Jose, You're always welcome here and I look forward to your Ecumenical story. By the way folks: it is worth visiting Jose's Blog here:

    I really recommend it.

    One question Jose - how did you get to put an accent on your name on the letter E. My computer will not let me do so.

    God bless.

    1. Hello Victor:
      I appreciate the plug!
      Computers do unexpected things all the time:)
      About the accent, I have Spanish (my native tongue) as one of my keyboards in Windows, and putting the accent is very easy that way. Otherwise you'd need a to press ALT and 0201 to get the letter E with an accent.

      One of these I'll share a much briefer story than the old lady.


      José D. Pinell.

    2. Thank you Jose. I did not know you can have a Spanish keyboard. I sometimes write in French and they have a lot of accents everywhere. I'll ask my computer expert if he can find me a French keyboard.

      I look forward to reading your story.

      God bless you.

  6. Victor, I'll just echo a big Amen to this post!
    ..I think you were quite patient through it all, though..+

    1. I can still hear the lovely old lady talking Caroline.

      God bless.

  7. Here across the pond we are drowning in reality TV. I'm just waiting for one of the producers to realize your life is more entertaining than all of them!

    God Bless.

    1. What a great idea Michael. Tell them about my stories and if they make a TV show as a result I'll give you a percentage.

      God bless you.

  8. Victor,

    Thanks for the smile! I never know how your stories are going to end. I didn't anticipate the football crowd at all.

    God bless!

    1. Sue I'm so glad I made you smile. It's worth it.

      God bless you and yours.

  9. I never see it coming when you write these funny stories!



God bless you.