It is around Ascension day that I usually start to feel the warmth and glow of summer in both mind and body. Shaking off the dust of Lent and the darkness of Good Friday, the sunshine gives us a marvellous lift.
But summer brings with it more than this healthy glow. For the church, it is the traditional time to seal blessed unions and raise some seasonal funds.
Weather or not
I’ve attended some unforgettable summer fetes over the years when the sun is shining, everyone is having fun and the amount of funds raised puts a smile on the treasurer’s face.
These events often bring such great satisfaction to the stall holders and the church wardens who proudly quote a wonderful report in the local newspaper the next day.
The trouble is that every fete can’t be the raging success you imagine it to be and the reason for that is your dependence on the unforgiving, unpredictable nature of the British summertime.
Just like the fair weather years, it is the occasions when the weather was not so kind to us that also stick in the memory. One such event was the summer fete of 2012.
I had been asked to open the fete as the local priest. The weather forecast hadn’t been too good of course, but this did not quite prepare us for what was to come.
On the assumption that the weather would be fine, our church committee had set up stalls around the village green. In the centre of this they had prepared a small open marquee for myself, the chairman and the DJ.
I’d been looking forward to my big moment for some time and prepared the perfect opening speech. However, just as I was clearing my throat to declare the fete open, the heavens opened and
buckets of water rained down upon us.
The whole village fled to seek shelter elsewhere and there was not a soul who heard my well chosen words. My moment in the sun had been extinguished for another year.
Ring a ding ding
As a priest I am well aware of another event that summer calls to the church. I speak of course about the excitement of a summer wedding.
What a difference the weather makes. If the sun is out, guests stand around outside church renewing friendships and chatting away. Ladies arrive in their best summer finery and men in their dashing formal gear.
Somehow they are reluctant to enter church, but when they do, they are always relieved by the contrasting coolness inside. I’ve seen many an anxious groom breathe a sigh of relief to be out of the hot sun.
There is one wedding in particular that I shall never forget. Theological college simply cannot prepare you for such incidents.
It was a fine summer day with the sun streaming through the stained glass windows of the little church at one of the first marriages I officiated. Everything was going smoothly until the best man passed me the two rings.
Because I was not holding my service book level the rings fell off the book and rolled under the portable altar rail.
With disaster looming, I took a deep breath then calmly requested the confused couple to step back two paces. I pushed the altar rail towards them and scrabbled about on the carpet, feeling the heat of a thousand eyes on me.
Thankfully, after what felt like an eternity of panicked searching, I eventually found both rings and the service was able to continue.
Embarrassed at first, I soon found myself gloating at my ability to overcome the situation. But I wasn’t so pleased with myself when I spotted the cameramen standing beside the pews. Their video cameras had been trained on me throughout the ceremony.
Without further ado, I approached the men and whispered, “Don’t you dare put that on You’ve Been Framed… But if you do, I want 50% of the commission.”
The accidental symbol
Whilst shaking the guests’ hands as they left the church that day, the grandma of the bride said she was thrilled that I had arranged a special bit of the service because the couple were both on their second marriages.
I asked her to what special part she was referring. She told me that it was the loss and retrieval of the rings she thought was very special.
Her interpretation of this incident was that it symbolised losing one marriage but being received joyfully into another.
So there you are, I was a winner in her eyes. That being said I still can’t shake off the feeling of dread every time You’ve Been Framed appears on television.
The honeymoon period
Weddings can also be great humourous affairs. One of my favourite jokes ever is about marriage, and funnily enough, it was first told to me at a wedding. It goes like this…
Three couples, who are all friends, decide to get married in the same week. A few weeks after their honeymoons the three husbands meet up over a pint and start bragging about what duties they had given to their new brides.
The first said he had asked his new wife to wash the dishes and clean the house. It took a couple of days to work but on the third day he came home to a clean house and all of the dishes put away.
The second man had asked his partner to do the dishes, clean the house and do all the cooking.
On the first day nothing was done, on the second day there was a good improvement and by the third day the house was clean, all the dishes were washed and there was a huge meal on table.
The third man said he had told his bride to clean the house, wash the dishes, mow the lawn, do all of the laundry and cook him a hot meal for when he came home from work.
He said on the first day he didn’t see anything, nor did he see anything on the second day. But by the third day some of the swelling around his eye had gone down and he was able to do the jobs himself.
The Reverend Priestly Brook, an Anglican priest,retired in August 2012 from the Colne and Villages Team Ministry in East Lancashire. His Bishop has granted him a licence with ‘Permission to Officiate’. He is married to Christine, with six grown up children. He is a well known preacher and after dinner speaker in the North of England.