Monday, 1 September 2003

A day at the Races

Four young people from St Thomas’s are going to be confirmed next month at Sheffield Cathedral.  So, as part of their preparation, I decided to take them down to Cheltenham Racecourse last weekend.  There we were in the grandstand, waiting patiently for the main event of the day.  Thousands of others were crowding around us and in front of us was the majestic sweep of the course itself with the sticks beautifully manicured and much further beyond the curving blue hazed ridge of hills which marks the start of the Cotswolds.
The excitement was building and having read the programme I was deciding how much I should outlay in the hope of a good return!
I should say at this point that there was not a horse in sight.  The punters around us were fellow Christians of every age, shade and denomination.  The centre of the racecourse was packed full of the tents which formed our living quarters for the weekend and what we awaited was the festival Eucharist.  Our money was going, not to line the coffers of the bookmakers, but to Christian Aid to contribute towards the campaign to reform the global trade rules in the hope of a fairer economic balance for the poorest in the world. 
The service included drummers from South Africa – getting us started with a sense of vitality and passion.  It included statements of protest against injustice and the use of violence as an ultimate solution.  Unintentionally it was demonstrated that the institutional church can often be impotent (a bishop in full finery came up to give the blessing only to find that the PA had died – we could see his head bobbing around but not the faintest sound of his voice reached us) in contrast a Mexican wave (the first time I’ve seen one during worship) showed the power of collective action by ordinary people.

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