O come let us ado-ore him, Chri-iiiist, the Lord!
I woke up to someone whistling the final line of O come all ye faithful. It was about one o’clock in the morning. I wondered who it was whistling a tune that immediately transported me to a moment in my childhood shuddering in a church in Richmond, gazing up above, wondering what or who the Lord really was. Earlier in the day I had spoken to Radio Cumbria. As I waited my turn to come up live, I learned of an oil spillage at junction 6 on the M11, or was it junction 11 on the M6? Radio Cumbria’s news bulletin streamed into my right ear and I was briefly deeply homesick. After my interview I said to the technician, ‘What I would do to be in Cumbria right now.’ But the moment the words were out, I realised it wasn’t quite true.
I spoke to the Bishop of the Anglican church here, André Soares. The subject was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who arrived here about three hours ago and will stay until Tuesday. But we digressed, and spoke instead about Anglicanism in Angola. Apparently it arrived in 1925 when a British priest from Liverpool turned up in the northern province of Uíje. My husband is from Liverpool. I told the Bishop and very generously he said that meant I had special links with Angola. I was flattered, and encouraged. I told the Bishop about my great uncle. He was a monk who worked with Trevor Huddleston in Soweto, and at one stage taught Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Bishop Soares was, once more, enthusiastic.
‘Which church are you going to?’
A terrible silence fell down the line.
‘I don’t. I mean… err… I don’t go that often.’
He knew I was lying but, again, was generous, and chose to ignore. He told me about a church that has a service in English every Sunday morning at 8am.
‘The American ambassador comes.’
My landlady was very cross with me recently when I told her I didn’t believe. Nothing makes her cross, but this made her really cross. She asked me why I didn’t believe and I tried to avoiding saying what I really felt because I didn’t want to upset her any more than I already had. Some friends of hers came to dinner. One of them asked me a question.
‘Are you an angel?’
I laughed, but his eyes remained fixed on mine.
‘Are you an angel? I can tell you love Jesus as much as me.’
Fear struck. Is that really how I appear?
‘No, I don’t, I don’t! I don’t love Jesus. I don’t believe in Jesus.’
Great disappointment around the table. Everyone gazing at me, pitying but confused. The same man broke the silence.
‘I love Jesus. Jesus is everything to me.’
I could see he felt sorry for me. He looked visibly upset for me.
‘Jesus is my love and my life. My life.’