Jeremy Clarke will no longer be making his way to the altar for the laying on of handsby Jeremy Clarke / July 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Published in July 1997 issue of Prospect Magazine
For seven years Eva Rye lived in room one of our residential home for the elderly. When she came to us, Eva was frail and ill; she steadily declined as time went on until it seemed incredible that a person could be so frail and ill, and still live. She was deaf; she was giddy and incontinent; she had hideous arthritis and a malignant cancer spreading across her forehead; and she kept falling down on the way to the commode and breaking her brittle old bones. Although constantly in pain of one sort or another, a bright, determined spirit shone out of her pale blue eyes. She smiled a lot and took an interest in other people. Several times we packed her off to hospital for yet another operation, telling each other that if she survived this one it would be a bloody miracle; but she always came back, weeks, sometimes months later, looking frailer, gaunter and smaller, and asking how everybody was. Eva occupied herself by reading her Bible and praying.
When she was well enough, she liked me to take her to the Anglican healing service held once a month in the village church. Unlike the emotionally charged healing circuses conducted by charismatic power evangelists in conference halls, these unobtrusive services, held on the last Thursday of the month, are quiet, contemplative, poorly attended affairs. In the depths of winter, when a gale is howling, the sea wild, and the wind and rain lashing against the stained glass windows, the stillness inside the freezing, ill lit, medieval barn that we call our parish church, well and truly passeth all understanding.
After getting us in the mood with a couple of traditional hymns and a brief sermon, Ron, the vicar, would lead us in the responses (“Lord, we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under thy table” and so on), then motion us to make our way forward to the altar rail, where we would kneel to receive the bread and wine. After returning to our pews to contemplate our forgiveness for a moment,…