I went to church on Sunday. Nothing much there, except that weddings and funerals excepted, it must be at least thirty years since I last went.; and no, the building did not fall down! It was sixty years on Sunday since my mother died. She was forty seven, I was thirteen. I placed a small posy of flowers on the grave and said a private prayer of my own. I will speak more concerning the last sixty years but at a later date
I was brought up in a Moravian household. I suppose to many that in itself is unusual. The Moravian Church is, I believe, the oldest Protestant church in Europe. I will again speak of this church at a later date. When you are young you don't tend to query too much who you are and all that goes with it, so to speak. Moravians tend to have small, originally self sufficient communities all over Europe and obviously including England. My childhood and upbringing was in the main happy, given my personal circumstances. After the war there was often an air of uncertainty and foreboding present, particularly concerning a Third World War. (nuclear bombs were often talked about.) I distinctly remember, somewhat smugly that I, being a Christian and a Moravian, would go to heaven of any case; others would not be so lucky.
I attended church\chapel twice on Sundays until my very late teens and thought nothing of it. Girls from the local girls boarding school attended the morning service and were an obvious attraction. Liaisons were sought but seldom materialised; teenage boys can but dream! Two hours lost on Sundays and the sermons seemed to go on forever; but undoubtedly a way of life that installed in me moral values that I adhere to to this day. And so to Sunday, 9th September, 2013.
The chapel was bright and cheerful just as I remembered it. At the front, at the back of the altar a huge, frowning face still surveys its 'audience' But a face not obvious to all. (I checked) Now why have I, forever and a day been drawn to an 'apparition' that most are not aware. You tell me! The boarders from the school still attend; I suspect they have no choice, unlike the rest of the congregation. Attractive girls, but very noticeable the fact that many were of foreign extraction. As Bob Dylan used to tell us, 'Times they are a'changing.'
The congregation otherwise was sparse and in the main ominously elderly. I have a vision of a splendid chapel, built in the 1750's in the not too distant future sporting a great big sign, not Ockbrook Moravian Church but a more modern message stating simply 'Tesco Express'.
The minister, by Moravian standards a comparatively young man, delivered the service with enthusiasm and vigour; what a task he has inherited. A too modern approach will meet with disapproval from those entrenched in the traditional ways of the past. Yet one of his aims will be to offer something that will encourage the young to attend and become lifelong Moravians. (Tasks such as keeping a graveyard tidy is, I've no doubt almost beyond the aged, an awesome practicality easily overlooked!)
The sermon was topical, ernest and no doubt from the heart. Syria and its problems were mentioned several times. I do hope people living in safe, middle class, cosy Ockbrook do try, if only occasionally
to think of the lives of others in the world not so fortunate as themselves.
On a not so serious note. The minister's 'speel' was delivered under the banner of 'Things that in life are 'risky'. A thoughtful enough sermon except that I misheard him. I thought he said 'Things that in life are 'risque'. Now that would have been worth hearing! Oh well, the joys of getting old! Mind you, I thought it would have been a bit too modern for rather staid old people. Mind you, I bet the schoolgirls would have paid greater attention!
The church provided a cup of tea afterwards and several spoke to myself and my wife; pleasant people, are Moravians. If it was an echo of the past, it was a nice echo. The religious side of life for me has changed. But the community side of Ockbrook Moravian life is important. It is very much a part of life for many, all the more so as they get older. I enjoyed my visit, irrespective of the sad event my visit recorded. Perhaps my next visit will be a little less than thirty years!