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Cotswolds

Wrong Turn

The Ritalin vacation is officially over. Ten months ago husband started the Ritalin-free weekend experiment. It’s been patchy all along but the last three weekends have brought nightmarish mood swings, and we both agree it’s time to reevaluate with the help of a medical professional. My own patience collapsed over a trivial incident, as is always the way, on Sunday morning. While driving to church I nearly missed a turn despite having driven this route a hundred times before.

“Where did you think you were going?” husband asked twice for good measure.

“Fuck off. It was a mistake, I make them,” I replied at volume.

We exchanged no other words until after the Prayers of Penitence. Husband nudged me. Softened by prayers admitting what asses we all are, I assumed he was too and expected an apology or at least a smile that implied as much. Instead I was told off in hushed tones for wearing my gloves in church. Never mind that my fuzzy, black, fingerless gloves are my favourite utility purchase since my snap on waterproof bicycle basket, perfect for staying warm while engaging in tasks that require dexterity like opening hymnals. It’s cold in this old stone church. And, it’s not exactly formal. A black lab snoozed at the feet of the elderly occupants of the pew in front of us. The gloves stayed on.

Then Godfrey the vicar opened his sermon with a prayer from Mother Teresa:

Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you, and say: “Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.”

The irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable. Interesting. I always associated Mother Teresa with lepers, but she also seems to have spent time with husband.

My fuming continued unabated during the Prayers of Intercession that followed. I prayed shamelessly for ME ME ME, not Iraq or Afghanistan or the bloody queen.

Next up was communion, which I usually sit out for a variety of reasons, the main one being that it’s all about the crucifixion, the very heart of what separates Christianity from other religions. And that separation, that thing that makes people feel special or different or better than, is the very thing I despise in religion. Whether it’s the three precepts or the five pillars or the ten commandments, the major world religions have more in common than not, and I’d prefer to focus on that. Then there’s the hygiene issue. Call me anal retentive but all those people drinking out of the same glass grosses me out. And finally there’s the technically correct and less controversial reason I gave the vicar when he asked me last month why I abstained. I’m not confirmed in the C of E, so I assumed it wasn’t kosher, so to speak. He assured me it wasn’t an issue.

As my half of the tiny congregation filed up to the altar, Dorothy, the eighty-year old shopkeeper sitting opposite, looked me in the eye and said, “He said you should come.”

“What?” I replied despite having heard exactly what she said.

“He said you should come,” she repeated, leaning in and clasping my arm.

Dorothy had clearly overheard my previous conversation with the vicar. But for a brief moment in my vulnerable state I thought the “he” in her mandate was God on some kind of direct line to her with advice for the pouting woman across the aisle.

And so I did what I had been told to do and filed up to the railing where I kneeled and waited. Godfrey deposited a wafer into my open palm — it had seemed right to remove my gloves for this. Jean the lay minister followed offering a sip of port from the silver chalice, enough to dislodge the styrafoam disc now stuck to the roof of my mouth. Both spoke softly and directly to each participant: the body of Christ, the blood of Christ. This wasn’t the self-service communion of my Presbyterian childhood, where large gold trays holding plastic shot glasses of grape juice and stale torn bread are passed around. This was different. It felt like being ministered to, which I suppose is exactly what I needed.

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