Over the last few weeks I have had quite a few conversations with the demolition team next-door, and they have shared odd memories of what the street was like in the 1950's when they grew up here. Yesterday one of them said, 'oh, we found some bits you might want' which turned out to be programmes from 'sermons' (as it happens those held by the Methodists who borrowed our, larger, building) in 1966, 1977 and 1986. At one level these very grubby pamphlets, posted through my letterbox last night, are utterly worthless, at another they are valuable historical documents. They could so easily have been consigned to the gehenna (can I call a long-running bonfire that?!) at the far end of the site but someone spotted their value and rescued them. That sounds like an extra mile walked to me.
This photo, taken a few weeks ago has suddenly gained significance. It shows me with two of the oldest old girls of 1st Duston Girls' Brigade, to which I belonged from the ages of 12 to 18.
Today I received news that Mrs Nightingale (Eva) - centre - had died on Thursday last week.
She was a great leader, managing to balance fun, fairness and enough strictness to get us to do what she wanted!
I am still able to impress girls today with the fancy steps she taught us in skipping, can perform club-swinging routines worthy of the Royal Navy (!), can fall in a District in line or in column (should I ever need to!) and have abiding memories of her shaking a stick of rhubarb at me when we were at Camp in some sort of pretend-anger when we'd been teasing her.
I find myself wondering how many lives she touched with her gentle humour? How many girls (women) can still hear the instructions " clubs into position... place" at the start of a routine. How many people who hated PE, detested the GB requirement for physical activity actually came, albeit reluctantly, to enjoy her classes?
Today the rope is folded, the clubs are stilled, the parade ground is quiet and the rhubarb grows silently in the garden. Eva, Mrs Nightingale, is gone from here to her rest. May she rest in peace.
Demolition next door continues apace. This morning the pulpit and dais came down - like so much matchwood. It's slightly odd seeing a JCB where I used to stand to lead worship (not in the pulpit I hasten to add) causing me a wry smile. From dust you came and to dust you will return... so much for all those fine words eh?!
OK, for some reason the blog platform keeps eating this post! Maybe it doesn't like my views.
This morning I am a much relieved minister - my fears that the BNP would take an East Midlands seat were not realised - but (if I did my quick D'Hondt sums correctly) only because we had one less seat than last time. Using BBC data and rounded figures I reckon they'd have got the sixth seat had it still existed. So rejoicing but not complacent.
And I'm a much distressed minister - wider fears that the BNP would get seats in Europe have been realised with two elections, one in my much loved North West of England, the other in Yorkshire. There but for the grace of God go any of us.
So, muted rejoicing and empathic weeping.
The Hope not Hate campaign continue to be very vocal and find a lot of support among Christian groups. Their latest petition is here (and if you don't want to keep getting their emails it's easy enough to unsubscribe afterwards). It's not original, but it's true to say that all it needs for evil to triumph is for reasonable people to do nothing.
At our service this morning - joint with D+1 - I was conscious of how old and tired so many really are, and I found some words of a recent pop song coming into my mind. I think the words are quite beautiful and make a wonderful blessing/promise:
When You Are Old
When you are old and tired and gray
Wear you overcoat on sunny days
When your brave tales have all been told
I'll ask for them when you are old
When you are old and full of sleep
And death no longer makes you weep
When your body aches with cold
I'll warm your heart when you are old
You'll still be the same to me
A comfort and a mystery
And I will be old too see
I'll need someone to comfort me
When you are old and pale and gone
And a gentle hand is all you want
I will give you mine to hold
And I'll be here when you are old
Yes I will give you mine to hold
And I'll be here when you are old
Martina McBride, from www.elyrics.net
Working with my much older congregation these last few years has taught me a lot about older people, and I am glad for the lessons they've given me (and forgive the frustrations they cause me!!).