Today was interesting. Because my planner is out of pages I wasn't able to plan today on paper. Nevertheless, late Thursday night I was able to contact Father Matthews again and plan an interview with him for this morning (Friday). So 8:30 saw me attending their morning prayers service, and Father Matthews seemed happy to see me (“Is it Ben or Benjamin? I like the name Benjamin...”). He had me sit in the stall next to him and showed me when to speak the verses in Psalms and recite the prayers for the fifteen minute service, and the only other person in the chapel was another woman who also helps run the church. I had been to a similar meeting before, but I think this time it was better because Father Matthew treated me like a friend, not just another visitor. After it was over, we made our way back to Father Matthew's office and started what would end up being an hour-long conversation.
Father Matthews is a very thoughtful, careful, and yet simple man, and I think he relished the opportunity to share his life and feelings about the church and Christianity with someone else. Our conversation lasted a bit more than an hour, and although I really liked listening to him, I will have to do better about guiding the conversation next time toward the topics that are most important for my study. For most of the interview I think I was just a little too happy to be interviewing :-P Before we started the interview I wrote this about him while he was in the other room finishing off an email:
Father Matthew is the real thing. I feel that if he had lived half a century ago he would have been equally comfortable and suited for the calling as a priest in a traditional Christian church. His clear singing voice for the ancient hymns, his amiable way with people, his sense of humor that manages somehow manages to be both dry and warm at the same time, and his sincere concern toward his parish uniquely qualify this man for his position in the Church of England. At age 44 and standing at around 5’10”, his receding grey hair and penetrating eyes give him the undeniable look of a leader even while his manner retains a distinctly common touch.
Although I was surprised to hear him swear once or twice during our conversation (and perhaps I shouldn't have been), overall he seemed a very good and sincere man. He isn't terribly pleased with the status quo in his church, with numbers declining each year and society as a whole drifting away from regular church attendance. I will always remember the ways he spoke when he talked about his son (“the apple of my eye”, as he put it), nor the way that he described how lost he would feel if he didn't believe and trust in God.
As we walked out at the end of the interview he turned to me and said with a smile, “Now it's time for me to go and play the piano. Yes, I'm taking piano lessons – that's what happens when you reach your mid-life crisis and need something to do!” I laughed and returned that my mom had started taking Spanish classes recently, now that she had more time on her hands, and as he opened the front door he told me that I needed to come back and that he would find some other individuals for me to interview who were older members of the church. I was very happy to say yes!
Oh, and here are some recent photos :)
Muslim Mosque I saw in the neighborhood by the Indian Market