Tuesday, 5 February 2013

‘If it be your will’ or ‘Dance me to the end of love’

Snow on the gravestones in Saint John’s Churchyard, Kilkenny this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

At the Dublin and Glendalough clergy conference in Kilkenny this morning [Tuesday 5 February 2013], the Revd Bruce Pierce introduced us to ways of talking about stress and coping with in our ministry and in our parishes.

But he introduced us to this morning’s topic with humour and the song written by Richard Stilgoe and Peter Skellern about a fictional parishioner called Mrs Beamish:

. Mrs Beamish stands in church,
expression calm and holy
And when the organ plays she
mumbles hymns extremely slowly.
A pillar of Saint Botolph’s
For forty years or more
She does the flowers at Easter
and the brass-work on the door.
But recently Saint Botolph’s
has gained a brand new Vicar,
His name is Ken, he’s single,
and he wants the hymns sung quicker.
He’s introduced a custom
which Mrs Beamish hates,
So she rounds upon the person next to her
and clearly states:

“Don’t you dare shake hands with me,
or offer signs of peace,
You lay a finger on me
and I’ll send for the police,
Don’t whisper ‘peace be with you’
– this is the C of E,
So bend the knee, say ‘thou and thee’
– and keep your hands off me!”

Ken tells us love your neighbour,
And Mrs Beamish sneers,
“I only love my neighbour
if I’ve known them 30 years”
Even when it isn’t Christmas
He let’s youngsters in the church
He's altered all the music
after audience research
They shout out ‘Halleluiah!’
They don’t act like me and you
The young women don’t wear hats
And the young men quite often do
They seem to like their hands
enthusiastically rung
’Til they turn to Mrs Beamish
And they feel her acid tongue...

“Don’t you dare shake hands with me,
I don't know where you’ve been!
You lay a finger on me and you’ll feel this tambourine!
Don’t whisper peace be with you
This is the C of E!
So bend the knee, say ‘thou’ and ‘thee’
And keep your hands off me!

In the beginning was the Word
Read out loud by Thora Hird
Harry Secombe then would scream
“Morning has broken” by a stream
Now the organ’s gone for scrap
And everyone has got to clap!

“Don’t you dare shake hands with me
or turn to me and smile
You’ll wake up spitting teeth out
Face downwards in the aisle
Don’t whisper ‘peace be with you’
This is the C of E!
You go just one inch too far
You’ll end up wearing that guitar
One false step in my direction
You’ll need to believe in the resurrection!
So bend the knee, say ‘thou’ and ‘thee’
And keep your hands off me!”


Mrs Beacham ... ‘Don’t you dare shake hands with me’

In our second session this morning, we were asked several questions about our God stories (my own instant answers to some of those questions are in brackets):

● What is your favourite Biblical text? (Little children love another)
● What is the image of God that you like best, why? (Christ the Pantocrator)
● What sermon do you remember best? (‘Love God, Love one another’)
● What has been the family influence ... how does the family deal with anger, secrets .... who was the person in your life that inspired you, that formed God for you ... what did they do or say? (My ‘Gran’ Hallinan, who showed my Holman Hunt’s ‘The Light of the World’ when I was a very small child)
● Where is the place of nurture for you, that you want to go to when you are spiritually tired? What in it makes the difference? (Lichfield, Rethymnon or Wexford)
● Where or who is the theologian or theological book that helps you at the moment? (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) What is in that book that fulfils you?
● Who is your hero in the here and now? (Desmond Tutu)
● What is the big doubt? And how do you live with ambivalence of uncertainty?
● What’s the nagging question that keeps eating you and doesn’t go away?
●What is the poem that you would hold to that would help your faith? (Leonard Cohen, ‘If it be your will’ or TS Eliot, ‘Ash Wednesday’).
● What is the big excuse when your ministry is challenged so much and you ask what is the meaning? (‘Little Children, Love one another’)
● What is the song that tells your story? (Leonard Cohen, ‘If it be your will’ or Leonard Cohen, ‘Dance me to the end of love,’ which I want as my coffin is being carried out of church)
● Who is the person you want as your final companion ... and do not pick someone from your family?
● What would be your Last Word that would tell your story? (‘Little Children, Love one another’)
● What’s the deal you’ve done with God ... what is your covenant with God? (‘Little Children, Love one another’)
● What has changed in your vocation ... do we allow our vocation to change? And has that been for good or bad?
● If you were terminally ill, would you like to be visited by you? Would you want you to provide care when you’re dying?

A dusting of snow on the rooftops in Kilkenny this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

‘If It Be Your Will’ (Leonard Cohen):

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.


Leonard Cohen, ‘Dance me to the end of love’

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love


2 comments:

Nicole Sigalos said...

Wishing you well, Reverend Patrick! Thank you for every line, every photograph every day. May all your stress be eustress, not distress.

Patrick Comerford said...

Thank you Nicole.