30 12 / 2012
"It was a misty early spring day with strong light above the snow. We arrived in good time at the little church north of Uppsala to find four churchgoers ahead of us waiting in the narrow pews. The churchwarden and verger were whispering in the porch and the woman organist was rummaging in the organ loft. When the summoning bell faded away over the plain, the pastor had still not appeared. A long silence ensued in heaven and on earth. Father shifted uneasily and kept muttering. A few minutes later came the sound of a rushing car on the slippery ground outside, a door slammed and the paster came puffing down the aisle.
When he got to the altar rail, he turned round and looked over his congregation with red-rimmed eyes, a thin, long-haired man, his trim beard scarcely hiding his receding chin. He swung his arms like a skier and coughed, his hair curly on the crown of his head, his forehead turning red. ‘I am sick’, said the pastor. ‘I’ve got a high temperature and have a chill’. He sought for sympathy in our eyes. ‘I have permission to give you a short service; there will be no communion. I’ll preach as best I can, then we’ll sing a hymn and that will have to do. I’ll just go into the sacristy and put on my cassock’. He bowed and for a few moments stood irresolutely as if waiting for applause or at least some sign of understanding, but when no one reacted, he disappeared through a heavy door.
Father started rising from the pew. He was upset. ‘I must speak to that creature. Let me pass’. He got out of the pew and limped into the sacristy, leaning heavily on his stick. A short and agitated conversation ensued.
A few minutes later, the churchwarden appeared. He smiled in embarrassment and explained that there would be a communion service. An older colleague would assist the pastor.
The introductory hymn was sung by the organist and the few churchgoers. At the end of the second verse, Father came in, in white vestments and with his stick. When the hymn was over, he turned to us and spoke in his calm free voice: ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Glory be to thee, O Lord most High’.
Thus I was given the end of Winter Light and the codification of a rule I have always followed and was to follow from then on: irrespective of everything, you will hold your communion. It is important to the churchgoer, but even more important to you. We shall have to see if it is important to God. If there is no other god than your hope as such, it is important to that god too."
12 9 / 2011
11 9 / 2011