Aha! I am back amongst you!
However, I am in such bad humour about so many things today, that it’s hard to know quite where to start.
I will begin with Harvest Festival because I attended the Harvest service at Boy the Younger’s school today. As we went in, I said to my friend “what do you think the chances are of us singing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ or ‘Come ye thankful people come’.? “Zero,” she said, laughing.
Well it was worse than zero. I realise that in some aspects of life, I am an unspeakable old fuddy-duddy, but why does everything that involves children have to be turned into an entertainment? In a moment of desperation, I fed my programme to the beaming baby in the pew in front so I am unable to delight you with the nauseating detail of the ‘service’.
The children sang several feeble pop songs with the word ‘Jesus’ in them, most of which had stupid actions with which the parents were encouraged to join in. When we were asked to clap our hand to our heart, I’m sorry to tell you that I quietly intoned “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America…” followed by a hand-jive, which had the parents on the row behind dissolving into nervous giggles.
Then there was a really good bit where it all stopped and young and delightfully handsome young man from the nearby CARE village stood up and thanked us all for the donations of food which would be given to the residents.
After this, the Reverend Blodwyn stood up and began the ‘It’s behind you’ section of the service where all the children were encouraged to shout out stuff about vegetables, after which she delivered a lecture about the environment. Just in case the children hadn’t worked out what rain was, she put up a handy Powerpoint presentation with a character from a ‘Peanuts’ cartoon in which the character gets rained on. Ha bloody ha.
There is absolutely no need for church to be boring. A good minister can deliver a sermon which will not only uplift and encourage, but will leave the congregation with something to think about for the rest of the week. Hymns can be joyful and spirit raising, a reading in the hands of a decent reader is a lovely thing to listen to.
But Church, among many other things, is one really good opportunity to teach your children that there are times in life when they have to be quiet and behave with decorum. There is an unending stream of complaints about how children can never sit still, can’t concentrate, can’t keep quiet.
A large part of the problem is that children are not taught to be quiet and behave with decorum. Everything they do has to be entertaining. Well life isn’t always entertaining, in fact, quite large chunks of life can be a bit boring and require us to keep our gobs shut when we’d rather not. Sometimes we have to be quiet for the comfort of others.
Children need to be taught that there are times to have fun and times to be quiet and still. How can they learn to think and reason if their minds are being swamped with a constant and unrelenting cacophony of sounds and sights and ‘stimulation’? How can they learn to appreciate the small and simple things with which they’re surrounded if they never have a moment’s peace in which to do it?
I love Harvest Festival; whatever one’s spiritual pathway, it is completely reasonable to be grateful that we have enough food and that we still have farmers out there producing it. It is a gratifying experience to share some of that produce with those who have less than us. I personally thanked the farmers in the next pew for growing our milk. They did the narrowed eyes thing and left.
When I was at school, the Harvest service was a beautiful thing. The girls doing cookery baked fabulous loaves to look like sheaves of corn, flowers graced every windowsill and the joyful Harvest hymns rocked the rafters as the organ thundered and the choir sang descants that could have lifted the tiles off the roof.
The last ‘hymn’ was called ‘Harvest Hoe Down’ accompanied by a tinny recorded sound track and a bazooka solo from some invisible children – I don’t need to draw you a picture of how awful that was. I left Boy the Younger’s service with my teeth ground down to powder. I accosted a teacher in the playground and pleaded that, just once before I BTY leaves, could we sing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’? Just once. “Why?” she answered.
It all makes ‘Cauliflowers fluffy…’ seem positively Wesleyan.