‘It was a dark and stormy night …’ So begins Snoopy’s great unfinished novel. But it was, I was travelling to Edinburgh by train, one very wet November night last year. Floods had washed away a landslide at Oxenholme. We were all taken off the train at Preston, bussed to Carlisle and bussed again. The Citadel Station was mobbed, the rain poured down, passengers were bewildered … the coaches were filling up outside. Somehow I managed the last seat in the third coach. A gentleman sat against the window, and I sat beside him. There was the usual British banter about travelling ‘third class’, steerage even … and we set off.
Over the next two and a half hour, slow haul to Edinburgh, the gentleman and I discussed many things, but NOT religion. We talked about our families, Australia, the Welsh Valleys, the Outer Hebrides, Glasgow, the Cenotaph and so on. I asked him what he did, and he said he was President of the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches of Great Britain. Ten minutes later, I had to ask again.
All that church visiting I’ve done in so many counties. I’ve always been interested in history too, I’ve ‘knocked about a bit’, but how come I’d never heard of ‘Unitarian’? UNITARIAN … hmmm?
A week later, I looked up Bob Wightman on the internet, and then the Unitarians. I asked for the literature for further study.
Throughout my life I’ve attended various churches, Catholic mass with a dear friend; in Shetland I spent three years worshipping with the Baptists. They never once asked me if I was a Baptist, or if I would become a Baptist. Too polite. In my village in North Shropshire, I’ve been a C of E ‘floater’. I don’t take communion because I’ve always struggled with the huge issues like the Immaculate Conception, the Resurrection, original sin and so forth.
Everything I read about the Unitarians rang true. Right, I thought, I shall go. I found there was a church in Shrewsbury and set off on my own towards the end of November 2009. The church was shrouded in scaffolding and plastic. The door was open to the street. I peeped inside … A lady stood at the far end of the aisle. She smiled and waved. I could hear her saying “come in”.
Home at last.