5.13 Character sketch for review

These are notes.

Nick is a Church of England priest, around 45, a father of three, married to Penny, a musician. He is having an affair. He feels ashamed of this but also reckless, because he has realised that he has lost his faith.  If he has lost his faith, then risking his marriage doesn’t seem so terrible.

This isn’t something that happened suddenly; he has gone through a process that was so subtle he hardly noticed until it was over. In the first years after he was ordained he had experienced a kind of bliss while officiating at Holy Communion, and even at other services where no sacrament was involved, like Evensong and Family Worship. He had felt like a lightning rod, conducting the energy of God to earth, bringing true life to the sacred words that he read and spoke every Sunday. In the Mass, there was rapture in giving out the wafers into the upturned hands.

Then there were several years of routine, where he found himself getting right through from the reading of the Gospel to the blessing, without having thought for a moment. Where had his mind been? Maybe he had been worrying about money. All parish priests worry about money, shoes for the kids, putting enough food on the table, keeping the car on the road. Now, as he climbed into the pulpit of his ancient sandstone church, he saw himself going through the motions but with the awful cold certainty that there was nothing there, that he was feeding a myth.

Before him were the upturned faces of his congregation, the stalwarts, the regulars, who came every week. In the front pew his family; Penny, with that slightly worried look that all middle-class Englishwomen seem to have; Roland, a squirming mass of embarrassment at fourteen, hiding underneath his floppy fringe; Julian, the eleven-year-old, with his angelic blonde curls framing a round, open face; Molly, the four-year-old accident.  Three rows behind them sat Deborah.  She was gazing directly at him. Looking at her made him slightly dizzy. He clutched the edge of the pulpit to steady himself, leaning forward slightly, and in doing so gave out a signal of self-assuredness, of mastery, of having something important to say.

The sermon was the high point of his weekly charade. The weird thing about it was that, as he became less of a Christian, he became more of a priest. It was the realisation that the faith of the congregation depended on him performing, that fired him up. It was all down to him. There was almost a buzz in it.

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