Yesterday I had a meeting to attend in Selly Oak, which meant catching the 05:49 ex-GLC Virgin Voyager. By the time we reached Preston, I had studied all the papers I needed for the meeting and completed a draft for Sunday's service. I settled down to read a novel.
At Wigan a man got on and sat next to me, we said hello and then reverted to our private worlds.
Then the shop-person came through the carriage taking orders, and I decided to order a tea, handing over the correct change. My neighbour also ordered a tea, but needed change, which would be brought back with his drink.
A few minutes later back came the shop-person laden with brown bags full of hot drinks!
I was handed the bag with tea and change, my neighbour the bag with just tea. Realising the error, I swapped the bags, we smiled, and then as we supped our tea, the most wonderful conversation emerged about faith (he was a devout British-Asian Muslim originally from Wigan and now living in Manchester) and humanity, inclusion and diversity. He told me his faith story from 'nominal muslim' to father who wanted his children to understand their heritage. In repsonse to his asking, after I'd told him what I do/am, I told him the story of how God called me into ordained ministry, and what means for me, and how our church seeks to express its faith.
It was the most amazing, grace-filled converasation, and I was sad when it was cut short because I had to get off the train. As we parted, he handed me a book he had planned to read on the journey, saying it was a gift. Not a tract. Not an attmept at conversion. Just something he thought I might find interesting.
'The Lives of Man' explores Islamic understandings of life as pre-concpetion, in the world, in the grave, Resurrection, and the Garden of Fire.
I will read for many reasons, but mostly, because it was given to me by a total stranger with a beautiful smile, an open mind and a warm heart.
Was God in that moment? oh I think so!
And all because of a mix up in cups of tea... or, as my travelling compantion would have assured me, it was ordained. And maybe, in some way or other, it was.
Will either of us convert? Highly unlikely!
Was I blessed? Without a shadow of a doubt, yes.