Earlier this year someone tagged me in a group photograph of still young people – all hair and flares, larking around outside the first house church in Belfast, circa 1972.
Then I remembered how in that summer we’d talk late into the night, the windows open to a view across the hollow of a city become a flood plain where broken cisterns poured out plagues on both our houses.
Outside, helicopter blades stirred the thick heat; inside, Bible studies, guitars, endless cups of tea, community.
For years I kept the soft cover Good News version of John’s Gospel I was given then. Over time it got frayed at the edges – like most of us. I don’t know where it is now but that’s where I first read about an unlicensed Galilean Rabbi who refused to conform, nor speak for big religion or the powerful. Instead, he threw parties for the outsiders, walked long days on the edge, touching the unclean, modelling out a gospel of love and being willing to die for it. Shorn of childhood Sunday morning boredom I saw him as if for the first time. Sometimes you read a book and fall in love with the hero.
Since then, the hair has gone, and my spiritual CV reveals a facility for getting more things wrong than right – but the attachment remains – to the carpenter Messiah, glimpsed shining through what our church liturgy calls ‘Ordinary Time’, when one realises with R.S. Thomas in his ‘Bright Field,’ that,
“Life is not hurrying on to a receding future, nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush, to a brightness that seemed as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.”
Roy lives in Bangor with his wife Kay. He enjoys walking and is a member of Christ Church Primacy.