Since Sunday I have gained a lot of new perspectives - some more useful than others no doubt.
On Sunday we had our first official "date" with "Dibley + 1 mile" Baptist Church, joining their 6 p.m. service. It made for an odd kind of a day - as I was 'working' but not taking an active role in service leading, it was remarkably relaxing! After >30 years of regular church attendance always once, often twice, sometimes thrice, it was odd to experience a Sunday that would be 'normal' for >90% Brits in 2006. It was very pleasant to get up late, spend the morning reading a novel and taking a stroll in the afternoon. I began to see why people would need some convincing to give this up in favour of sitting in a draughty building for an hour or two listening to me waffle on about things like mission or God. Alas several years of fitting meals around church service times meant I didn't ever quite know when to eat - the inverse problem it seems of some of my church folk who think service times should fit around their 12:30 roast and 5:00 high tea!
The service itself was interesting - not least as I had preached there one week ago. The order I had chosen to ignore was back in place (so the reading was at least two hymns before the sermon and the intercessions somewhere in between!). A couple of my folk tentatively suggested to me that 'it was like going back two years' and a way of seeing 'how far we've actually come'- I think that was a compliment! The place was freezing but the welcome was warm and three of my people got 'mixing points' for deliberately sitting with people from the other congregation. The after service cup of tea - something new for both congregations (revolutions in Dibley!) - saw a good level of mixing by folk from both congregations and the atmospehere was encouraging.
Within a couple of hours of getting home I fell victim to the latest Leicestershire lurgy and undoubtedly raised the revenue of Bowater-Scott whilst discovering a viable alternative to Atkins or the Tesco diets! Having to leave a funeral (which thankfully I was not leading) to avoid keeling over was embarrassing - but better than the alternative! However, I gained new insights into why ministers are never ill and why it has, in the past, been the right decision to preach dosed to the eyeballs with Beechams etc.! My people very thoughtfully kept ringing to see if I was OK and offering pots of soup! Aaaaaargh! Good job I have learned to do 'gracious minister' responses. When I had a "real job", being ill was a nice, private affair, meetings could go ahead without me, even if I was due to chair them. Now I was expected to decide (from my sickbed!) whether a meeting I attend as a co-opted adviser should go ahead without me. Hmm. Minister as indispensible? I hope not. Now I am back at work I have a stream of emails and answerphone messages to attend to (more soup offers!) and wonder why I took the time off!
The time off, however, gave me a glimspe of day time TV (what else is there to do when you feel rough and reading a novel is too much like hard work?). I now know that the three pyramids at Giza are aligned like the stars in Orion's belt, that the Spanish Inquisition lasted about 600 years and that the most popular word associated with pizza is 'mozarella.' Apparently people north of the Trent in South Derbyshire are more friendly than those south of it in North Leicestershire (matter of opinion!) and a 1960's boat shaped bar thing fetched more at aution than a Troika vase. Many of these programmes were repeats and some as much as 10 years old, so if you've been ill in the last decade you may have seen them too. Is this really where life is at for those who don't work? Is this the diet our senior citizens and those unable to find employment are fed? Wow! It certainly is a wakeup call for the churches to open our tired edifices, spruce them up and offer something better. Maybe we could do cookery classes/demonstrations, host antique fairs or history talks?! Perhaps people might even fancy a church service rather than the worn out cliches and puns of 'Bargain Hunt,' 'Car Booty' or 'To Buy or Not to Buy?'.
I don't think I'll do 'ill' again for a while - the catching up outweighs the benefits of recovery time - but it has certainly been an interesting experience with some new perspectives on life!