On Aug. 8, I had the pleasure of spending the evening at The Jolly Farmer, as I had been asked to bless the premises on the occasion of its official re-opening. I used the following prayer from the ancient service of Compline, traditionally the last service of the day in a monastic community:
‘Visit, we beseech thee, O Lord, this place, and drive from it all the snares of the enemy; let thy holy angels dwell herein to preserve us in peace; and may thy blessing be upon us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’
If the reader is not sure what is meant by “the snares of the enemy”, it means generally the “influences and powers of evil”. The “enemy” was traditionally understood as the “opponent” of God – the Devil. It was a good evening with great music from Bill and Rema.
In England priests are often found in the village pub, and pubs are often found very close to old churches because they were built to accommodate the builders of the church. Some are so close one cannot actually pass between the buildings. Of course the prevailing habit of the clergy is to try and persuade people out of the pub and into the church, which in my experience, is no easy task. Going to the pub and mixing with the local clientele is a very effective ministry, and I have had many meaningful conversations over a pint! As an Anglican, I am one of the few clergy who still wear a ‘dog collar’, and when I appear in the pub I attract stares, as well as the inevitable questions from somebody who might be a little worse for wear! In defense of this, I am quick to draw the parallel with Jesus’ habit of eating and drinking with all kinds of people, but I must qualify this by saying that people in pubs are not likely to be worse sinners than anybody else. I have been a frequent visitor to the Jolly Farmer since January 2007, and my wife and I appreciated the kindness of Susan and Gil who have recently given up the management of the pub. The owners, Brenda and Gary Rolfe became close friends, especially during Brenda’s illness. She was regularly prayed for in our church and, mercifully, is enjoying rude health again, after a long battle. Sadly Gary’s son John drowned last October and I was asked to conduct a short memorial service in the “Farmer” at which many were present. I should like to wish Tom every success as the new manager. As I said at the re-opening night, it seems that I have effectively become Chaplain to the Jolly Farmer, and I am quite happy to fulfill that role. I am not at all sure that my personal witness to Christ is always as effective as it could be, I am not a natural evangelist, but I do believe in the incarnational ministry of simply being among folk, in their joys and in their sorrows, in their successes and in their failures. The church can very easily become an ivory tower from which most people are alienated. I am sure that our Lord Christ did not envisage such an organization.
Contributor: Brian Melbourne