We meet twice a year and last week there were nine of us, meeting – appropriately – in a run-down pub in Derby due for demolition. In the mid nineteen fifties we were trained for the Methodist ministry in a college in Bristol.
The origin and the job is all that we have in common, for we have moved to various places and developed our own lives and personal faith in different directions. Although now only a few of us are still alive or able to travel, we are in touch with others of our years, and we were able to share news about them.
We sat in a circle like the students we once were, presided over by the eldest of us, who had convened the meeting. Then, and later at lunch, we talked a bit about ourselves. Some of us still preach on Sundays, others no longer do so. Some still drive their cars, ‘but only locally’, others rely on public transport. We assumed that we carried the aches and pains that accompany old age, but mostly didn’t throw our woes and whinges at each other.
Our responses were slow, and sometimes questions had to be repeated, but in the main we were good examples of care by the National Health Service.
It was a quiet meeting. I think we were a little shy, recovering relationships that belong to the past and give little room for exploration. We were very polite with nothing of the ‘telling it how it is’ sort of relationships we may once have had. There was little opportunity for social and political conversation, so we weren’t changing the world as with more time together we might have contemplated doing. However we managed to employ the habit of old people at regretting that some things aren’t what they used to be – a promising field for anyone involved in church life! Mostly I thought we were loyal to our field of work, and I tried to curb my natural tendency to dissent from the majority view.
After lunch we listened to one of the group who is now a Quaker and no longer in the ministry. Chris talked about language. He is involved in the World Community for Christian Meditation – a new connection for me, but is also interested in the Progressive Christianity Network which is more my style.
He has become intrigued about the difference between the early Aramaic versions of the New Testament, which was the language of Jesus : more free and evocative than the more prosaic Greek from which our translations derive, and which could felicitate a more flexible and less dogmatic belief.
I think it was quite something that this little collection of old boys huddled together in a worn out pub, were able to give time not just to nostalgia (there wasn’t so much of that), but even more for new thinking.