25th August 2021

If I may be allowed to reminisce yet again on my time as a local church minister, I would like to take the opportunity to offer public thanks for those lovely souls whom I came to think of as minister’s tonics. Very occasionally – only very, very occasionally – a minister can get tired, fed-up, cheesed off with life in general and church life in particular. Too many meetings in the diary going over the same old ground time and time again, too much carping over inconsequentials, not enough imagining around what could yet be with a few adjustments! So when life in the French Foreign Legion began to sound attractive, I’d take myself to the door of one of Jesus’ gems, those gifts of grace whose company for an hour was more healing and restorative than a week at a spa hotel with all treatments included in the price.

These wonderful folk – nearly always female and usually of pensionable age – had a calm and a presence that were more than simply having a pleasant personality. There was a groundedness, an authenticity, a reality about them that reached out to the person before them, and I’m sure they weren’t aware of this for one moment. They were just being themselves – welcoming, encouraging,  accepting and wise. To be with them was to be given a gentle cuddle from God, and life was worth living again. ‘Thank you, Mr Stewart – it was so nice of you to call,’ they’d sometimes say as I left, but of course the indebtedness was entirely mine.

Ken Stewart