A True Believer
Little Miss Perfect is sitting on a pew right at the front. As always. Slap bang in the middle so that she doesn’t miss a word of His Reverence’s wisdom from the pulpit. Hat – who wears hats outside of Ascots and royal weddings these days? – and her own copy of the prayer book, neatly covered in Laura Ashley wallpaper. She organises the church fetes, oversees the flowers and takes it upon herself to welcome any new members of the congregation. Not that we get those often.
Then there’s one of the School Families. They’ve been boosting numbers at this parish for the last ten years or so. Never the same ones for more than a month at a time, as though they’re operating on a shift system. One in, one out. In truth, of course, they’re only here to try and get into the Church of England school up the road, that one that got “Outstanding” in its Ofsted report.
There’s a couple of pensioners, they’ve been together donkeys years, always sit in the same spot. He falls asleep early on – snores sometimes during the prayers – while she’s very devout and gazes up at the vicar throughout the sermon as though it is literally the Word of God coming from his mouth, when in truth we all know it’s just some stuff he cobbled together from the Bible with a sore head from too much sherry at the garden party yesterday.
There are a few kids running around at the back, being hissed at to be quiet and come and sit down. But it’s not fair on them really when they don’t understand the half of what’s being said and it’s so sunny outside, perfect for football and paddling pools.
There are a few do-gooders from around the village, the type that come in early to do the flowers, bake cakes for all the events – they’re not particularly strong believers but they’re the type who feel it wouldn’t do not to attend church.
And then, increasingly, there are rows and rows of empty pews. But that’s what it’s like these days – people have other religions now, fitness, celebrities, TV, binge drinking, studying… I don’t have a religion myself, I’m a fully paid up atheist. I’ve never told anyone that, of course, although naturally nobody ever asks. It’s just assumed – it’s my husband up there in the pulpit so it’s taken for granted that I’m a fully paid up god-botherer, when in fact I’m much more interested in the sherry afterwards.