Tuesday 23 October 2018

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 diarrhetic 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 lent 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. Replies
    1. What does? Azaleas? Steak pies, or Quentin?

      God bless.

  2. I would have preferred the second bus.

    I am with you about strangers, polite, but not really looking for a friend. I hate it when a stranger comes up to me as I may be thinking about something intently and says, "Smile, it can't be that bad!" I nod and say nothing while thinking, "How in the heck do you know it can't be that bad? And if I want to smile, I don't need some numb nutz I don;t know giving me permission, I gash dang smile if and when I want to...I really do not trust people who are smiling all the time anyway.

    Love your style!

    1. I think we are kindred spirits, JoeH. I hate it when people approach me in the street whilst walking the dog, or in shops or wherever to start a conversation as if I am a long lost friend.

      The other day, on the bus, I was quietly sitting there eating from a jar of chilli sauce when the other passengers were looking at me with an air of superiority tutting under their breaths.

      A week ago, taking the dog for a walk, a complete stranger approached me, put his hand on his chest and collapsed on the ground. I was annoyed at the interruption to my walk, but trying to be nice I phoned for an ambulance on my cell phone. The ambulance woman asked me where I was. I said Laburnum Avenue. She asked me to spell it. How could I? I did not have a dictionary with me. So I dragged the man all the way to the next street and told her I was at Oak Lane.

      God bless.

    2. If I have not said it before, you are a very funny man.

      Same thing happened to me and I was a little tipsy, I said I was "on the corner of walk and don't walk."

    3. Thank you for your kind compliment, JoeH. It's good to laugh. It releases dolphins within us and they tickle our insides. So my doctor said.

      God bless you.

  3. How was the game? LOL! I think complete strangers start talking to you because they sense you are a story teller, Victor, aomeone who will listen and learn and then write about it.
    And it's interesting to note here that my post for Friday will be discussing unity in the Body of Christ. Ecumenical? Hmm - should be, but sometimes it's enough for us to simply handle and overcome the divisions in our own church/parish. We'll see where this goes.
    And you have to watch that Guiness as it seems to lead to the wrong bus. :)

    1. Oh don't misunderstand me, Martha. I like Guinness. I like people from other denominations too and I am sure I'll meet many of them in Heaven. But I don't want to hear their stories about azaleas, pies and Quentins. Why can't they go and annoy St Peter or someone else?

      I look forwards to your Friday post.

      God bless you my friend.

  4. My Joe says he has a sign on his forehead that flashes "Talk to me!" because someone is always coming up to him to talk. I would be happier on the second bus... off to the game!

    1. Well, I did not go to the game. When we got there I made my way back home ALONE !!!

      God bless you, Terri.

  5. All aboard, off to the game. :)

    1. I got back home alone, Bill. Never mind the game.

      God bless you always.

  6. I can just see this happening. Not unlike what (actually) happened to my mother when she accidentally boarded the wrong ship while in Rhodes! (This in the mid-80's, way before stepped up security measures) Can you imagine the panic when our liner was set to sail and no elderly mother to be found?

    1. Oh dear, Mevely. Where did she set sail to? Or did you find her in time?

      God bless you and your family.

    2. Actually, she soon realized her own mistake and disembarked in short order … humiliated, but safe and sound!

    3. That was very lucky. I hate travelling in case I am on the wrong train, plane or ship.

      God bless you and yours.

  7. People have a tendency to share too much information with me too. : )

    1. I wonder why people do that, Happyone. Speaking to complete strangers.

      God bless.

  8. What a story! I seem to have that face that others want to share their life stories with also, Victor. I love hearing all about them--to a point--it would be nice to be asked, "How are you?" as well!
    Blessings, My Storytelling Friend!

    1. Oh yes ... Lulu, but did anyone ever talk to you about Quentin?

      How are you, my friend? I hope and pray you are well.

      God bless you.



God bless you.