I had a warm welcome when looking them up for the first time in nearly a month. It’s a tonic seeing you, Mr Orms exclaimed. Apparently they weren’t sure whether to start worrying about me, not having seen me for a while. However, they soon dropped this point and didn’t make any comment on what I looked like either.
First of all I heard that the much longed for red sweater was ready and that he had in fact worn it to church, which was alright, Mrs Orms, who had knitted it, thought. Fancy wearing it for work in the garden, though! Making a bonfire in it and making it smell of smoke! Mrs Orms looked disgusted and Mr Orms sheepish. I heard he had been working in the garden more than he should have done, he could tell by the way he felt the day after.
Anyway, he asked me would I like a drink. I said I did and they looked pleasantly surprized. He went into the kitchen to make tea while she put me in the picture about what had happened to them in the meantime. Work on their bathroom would soon start, she was hoping, the man from the Council having been. The Vicar expected too much organ-playing from her husband, having little sympathy with Mr Orms’ state of health. Was he paid for it at all, I asked. Yes, he was paid for it a little, was the answer. Then she gave me all the news about her granddaughter’s twenty-first birthday party and told me they were expecting their other son back from hospital where he had been staying for quite a while.
Mr Orms brought the tea in their nicest cups, I saw his was a bit chipped, but mine was perfect, and I told them about my niece having gone to Durham for a year. Mrs Orms is from that area and their faces lit up. Mr Orms told me a tale of dangerous rock-climbing which he did with his brother-in-law, of dropping into the sea, all this near Durham, and then running along the beach in an attempt to dry their clothes. They seemed like two of the same kind. Mrs Orms shook her head and Mr Orms chuckled. This was ever so many years ago, of course.
I changed the subject and asked their opinion about the audacious lady-priest who had defied the Church by celebrating Holy Communion. What did they think about ladies for priests ? They were unanimous in condemning the attempt. It was against everything the Scriptures taught. Not a single woman had been entrusted with a sacred office. All the Apostles were men who had handed their jobs down to other men. If this is so, I said, why do you not recognize the lawful successor of St Peter ? Well, there was Henry VIII, Mrs Orms said. She wasn’t too sure what he had done. It was a political decision, I helped her. Oh yes, she said. One could come back on it, I said, pushing a little. They looked doubtful. The services in the village church were certainly very high, Mr Orms said. There seemed to be very little difference … Why don’t you rejoin the original Church, I asked. The question confused them, they had never considered that. Then Mr Orms told me, he had had communion in the local Methodist church more than once, having played the organ for them, from a female priest in fact. He had thought nothing about it. He had rather liked the simplicity of their service. What about female priests in your own church then, I asked. He looked puzzled. It wouldn’t be right, would it, I helped him. They both shook their heads resolutely. Definitely not. They did agree with the Vicar who was dead against it. I said it was difficult breaking habits. They didn’t know whether to agree or not.
I told them about the Vicar’s article in the Parish Magazine two months ago where he had fervently defended priesthood as a male prerogative. I knew somebody had written a reply, Johnie’s wife. Was it published yet ? They handed me the latest issue of the magazine and the reply was there. I read it out to them, they know Johnie’s wife well enough. She enthusiastically proved from the Scriptures that theologically nothing spoke against women being priests. Even the editor couldn’t help recognizing this, because he added in a little note; “Fair enough”. He did ask people, though, to bear in mind that ‘Christian Unity‘ seemed to be on the horizon and that it was unwise to jeopardize this by introducing one-sided changes. Politically unwise, to be exact, I suppose.
I said to Mr and Mrs Orms, it looked as though their Church was on its way back into the original one. This brought unpleasant thoughts to Mrs Orms‘ mind. She remembered there was a powerful duke, member of the original Church, who the Queen depended upon heavily for most of her decisions. Mrs Orms thought so, anyway. How nasty, this Church coming in the back way, she said. How dangerous! She looked anything but cheerful. Mr Orms looked concerned.
I reminded them of the referendum concerning divorce in Ireland. Did they approve of the outcome, in other words, did they think people should make up their own minds or should they be pressurized in a certain direction? by powerful bodies? They didn’t like the idea of pressure. I pointed out it was probably a matter of habit, of pressure as much as anything else. Things one is used to one will accept. Things one isn’t used to one doesn’t want. They said, probably so. It was all a bit much for them really. They did know they didn’t want female priests.
Mr Orms changed the subject. He had found an interesting fossil in his garden and showed it me. Mrs Orms moved into the kitchen to start cooking lunch. I took my leave, picking up an apple or two from under their wonderful, old-fashioned tree and thinking I won’t have to see them for another three weeks, to make sure I get another warm welcome.