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English Sunday

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Being back in the village I grew up in is hard enough. But today I made the ultimate sacrifice and accompanied my mother to church.

Sundays in England are of course heinous with or without church. Songs of Praise and Antiques Roadshow kick off the evening’s TV viewing even though we could have watched live lambing on BBC2. Comedic relief was provided by my mother’s commentary on the news as delivered by the Daily Telegraph. Regular outbursts of ‘disgraceful’ were followed by the occasional ‘what are they messing around at?’. Mainly directed at the Japanese.

Today being Mothering Sunday, Lenham church was fuller than usual. Must have been at least 50 people in the congregation, so about the size of the average American church clergy. Fortunately it wasn’t a communion service so I didn’t have to awkwardly lurk in the pew during the bread and wine bit. In its place was a Family service which meant an influx of ginger-haired churchy children, all girls, with home-school haircuts and party dresses with over-sized bows.

As a special treat, the Lenham primary school choir would apparently be performing a few songs. However, the vicar’s wife explained, it would only be half the choir as the other half had all gone to a birthday party. This seemed highly unlikely at 11am on Mothering Sunday and raised the question of why the remainder of the choir didn’t go as well. Were they not invited? Well, who really wants a ginger with an extreme fringe/bangs spoiling their party?

But wait a sec, there’s an extra treat. The Lenham recorder group would also be performing. There was an audible groan, though perhaps only from me. Recorders are the children’s equivalent of the bagpipes. Skill level doesn’t matter, it’s still going to sound shrill and annoying.

Indeed it did. I have no idea what the first song was due to the piercing horror of the recorder. But the second song was helpfully pre-announced as ‘God Made A Boomerang And Called It Love (and then he threw it away)’. My chin was already wobbling with an impending giggling fit and only made worse by the demo of the physical actions we were encouraged to perform. Fifty people gesturing the throwing of a boomerang in unison gave the proceedings the feel of a Nuremburg Rally. 

Apart from that, I take issue with the general premise of the song. In this context, god is either an idiot for not realising the boomerang would come back or a narcissist who was a bit too much into self love. And the fact that he made it and then threw it away suggests he wasn’t particularly happy with his efforts. Perhaps he was trying to create a Love Spear but got distracted? 

After this treat I was hoping we might continue the g’day-god theme with other Aussie classics such as ‘Stuck Up A Gum Tree With Jesus’ or ‘God Made The Wallaby So He Can’t Be All Bad’.

Instead we got a rousing chorus of ‘He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands’ with more of the hand gesturing, though this time it was less nazi and more Village People. In case the Stepford children felt underused or perhaps to take their mind off the party they hadn’t been invited to, they were given various instruments of percussion/torture. They happily played along to the beats that didn’t exist in the melody. More ill-disguised giggling as coughing.

Finally, saving the best till last, we had the saying of the peace. This is a modern invention which should only be inflicted by churches with rock bands and jumbotrons. It  involves the hideous practice of giving those around you the sign of the peace – not the Churchillian V sign but the limp shaking of the hand of those around you while mumbling ‘peace be with you’ or just ‘peace’ if you’re feeling lazy. It’s an entirely awkward process with no formal rules, though I’ll admit that shaking hands with my mother did feel oddly appropriate and reassuring that, despite her illness, some things in our relationship hadn’t changed.