My nearest church had posters up this week advertising a celebration of worship, music and food on the Queen’s birthday. I decided to go. Where I grew up, 100 miles from London, the church hall was the only place meetings could be held. There simply were no other premises, so card players and flower arrangers all met for their weekly meetings in the shadow of the church. Thus it seemed quite normal to me to go to the local United Reform Church (Baptist) to meet with other members of the local community who were celebrating the 90th birthday of our monarch. Now I’m no supporter of the monarchy, but if there’s free food and music plus a chance to meet my neighbours, count me in!
It started with singing: we were still singing and swaying 40 minutes later, led by a lady with puff sleeves and a big head dress. The 8 African musicians up on stage were terrific, and the church was enlivened by the kids marching around waving union flags. The next half hour we spent listening to a visiting speaker talk about the massacre of Christians by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. Her organisation is called ‘Open Doors’ and they need cash to build a trauma treatment centre. I gladly contributed. The tales of persecution were truly harrowing and they so need the money.
The pastor came up to say some prayers, saying things about how the Queen stood for peace etc. when he suddenly spotted me, one white face among all the black ones and called out my name. (We are old friends). It was a bit embarrassing when everyone turned around to see who he was talking to! Next the deputy mayor arrived and a local councillor. As lunch time approached more and more people arrived and we went outside to help ourselves to a cold buffet. There I met a couple of new people. The food was not particularly Nigerian – the sausage rolls surely came from Tesco’s – but who cares, that was not the point.
My only regret is that more people didn’t come.
Peter Turner, 12 June 2016.