I just got back from a quick trip to Herne Bay to preach at the anniversary services and also to do a deputation report on the work in Bordeaux.
The church in Herne Bay is pastored by an old university friend, Keith Hoare. His wife, Janice, is also an Aber ex-student. AND they served for over 20 years in and around Aix-en-Provence. And their excellent son, David, is a student at Bath. So there are lots of links between us.
I flew from Bordeaux to Gatwick.
Leave the house at 11:45. Bus 4, Bus 48, Airport in plenty of time. That's the theory.
In practice I leave the house at 11:47. Miss the first bus 4. Get the second, which arrives a little late. Charge pell-mell to a different stop for bus 48 and arrive there just in time to catch it. Airport still OK. Phew!
The flight was smooth and Janice found me in the arrivals hall. I was staring everywhere looking for a big bloke with a beard so the little lady who said, "Alan, Alan" rather took me by surprise!
Herne Bay is on the Thames Estuary, more or less facing Southend, but a long way away. It's famous for Whitstable oysters and for its somewhat elderly population. The church is affiliated to the FIEC and falls into its "small churches" category, and was celebrating its 84th anniversary. Some of the congregation are older than the church.
I was impressed by the kindness people showed each other, they were very nice to each other, and by their outward-looking attitude. A nursery school shares the church building. They run garden parties and barbecues. Reaching people is never easy, but the church is applying itself to the task. This week Keith has a particularly sad funeral to conduct.
We walked round Herne Bay and Whitstable. We shopped in Sainsbury's, giving me the chance to restock our depleted reserves of PG Tips and to indulge the family's craving for Dairy Milk.
Am I preached on John 8, I am the Light of the World and pm on John 10, I am the Door. We sang "A Dieu soit la gloire". Keith and Janice learnt French properly, at Paris, and I'm always in awe of their lovely long a's and their carefully nuanced o's. Not like us bucolic folk from the South-West.
They got me to Gatwick in plenty of time and I had my bag thoroughly searched, which meant i repacked it more efficiently and could have fitted in more teabags... Oh well. Then ran the gauntlet of the scent-sellers in the huge duty-free shop that everyone is obliged to parade through.. At the departure gate there were chairs to sit on! luxury.
The return flight was extremely uneventful, despite warnings of violent storms in South-West France the flight was smooth and comfortable and bus 1 and bus 4 returned me to the bosom of my family.
Merci bien, les amis, pour un agréable weekend!