So, it’s about time for another randomly-selected true life revelation from my original list of 20 odd and random life incidents. Numbers 10. and 11.: Stott-related. First, how I got invited into JS’s bedroom.It was 1985. My boss at the Christian magazine I worked for was in hospital being treated for leukaemia. As the only other member of staff, I was editing the magazine in his stead. One weekend I went to a Christian arts and media weekend at a retreat centre outside London. As I arrived, I walked past John Stott in the corridor, and greeted him, but got no response. Then I went up to my room.
A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door, and a well-modulated voice said ‘Are you decent?’. I opened the door, and there was His Royal Stottness standing there. He immediately apologized for not recognizing me in the corridor, said he realized I was having a hard time at present (he was a patron of the magazine), and informed me that he was in the room opposite me and at any time in the weekend, if I wanted to talk, I should go and knock on his door. Wasn’t that kind? I was amazed he even remembered who I was.
As for JS calling me wise, it was a forum on sex and relationships, where he and I were on the panel together, with various other luminaries including Elaine Storkey. After the question time was over, he came over to myself and Elaine and, addressing us both equally, said ‘You’re very wise’. I was touched (well, not literally, but you know what I mean..).
That’s enough confessions for now. Next time, I might tell you how I snogged a future bishop. Or how I snogged Jonathan Ross’s future stepfather. Not both at once.
Time for another randomly selected incident from my list of 20 (full list here).
13. and 14. It was a Christian-run sailing holiday on the Norfolk Broads. We were sailing 1930s wooden Broads boats, 20 foot, really beautiful and each sleeping four (sleeping on a boat gently rocking on the river is something no one should miss).
I was reliably informed that the one I was helping to crew was the boat that had been used in the recent TV series of Swallows and Amazons. Like London taxis, they can turn (or tack) on a sixpence. I was very proud, but unfortunately, not being a very experienced sailor, I managed to crash my boat into someone else’s, splintering the gunwale and probably running up a high insurance claim. I was deeply embarrassed.
This was also the holiday on which one of my shipmates remarked idly as we were going to sleep, “Some people say ‘Puh’ when they rinse their teeth, and some people say ‘Tuh'”. I have never forgotten this. I’m a ‘puh-er’, by the way. What are you?
… I will explain some of the incidents on my list of 18/11/08, in random order and only one explanation per post:
6. It was a well known temple of charismania in the north of England. I was with a team running a weekend on gender issues and Christian feminism. The team had asked me to preach on the Sunday. I chose to preach on the Syro-Phoenician (or Canaanite) woman, the only person recorded as apparently changing Jesus’ mind for him. I talked about issues of inclusion and exclusion.
After the service as I descended the aisle I heard one old lady say to another: ‘This church is going from bad to worse’. But then a man buttonholed me and said he was gay but had never dared tell anyone at church, and my sermon was the first time he had felt included. ‘Ah,’ I thought, ‘that’s who I was preaching for’.