Communard in the community

Charles Cowling

There was a nice piece in yesterday’s Mirror about Richard Coles. In the eighties he was one half of the Communards; now he’s a Church of England priest.

In an age in which churchpeople are customarily pelted with derision, it’s worth calling to mind some of the virtuous deeds that Coles and his kind perform daily. Whatever you think of the theology, there has to be admiration for the heroic humility. And recognition.

“For example, this morning a naked man turned up at my door. He’s a regular caller and sometimes forgets to put his clothes on. I barely blink when I see him in the buff now. Welcoming him into the church is part of my job.

“As a priest I offer something to anyone who knocks at my door. A listening ear, some food, a sleeping bag or, in this man’s case, trousers.

“And that, in a nutshell, is why clergymen and women matter. We offer people something everyone needs and no one else gives.

“Ok, many get by without ever beating a path to our door. But we’re still here, trying our best to look after the weak and vulnerable.”

Coles has, of course, performed many funerals, not all of them noneventful:

“At another funeral, minutes before the service, the widow of the deceased handed me a note she had found among her dead husband’s belongings. She said he had wanted it to be read out.

“I had a brief glance at it beforehand, but when I started reading it I realised his note was apportioning blame for the things that had gone wrong in his life to people who were in the congregation. I had to hastily edit as I went along. It was ghastly.

“But nothing is as bad as my colleague’s disastrous first burial. The gravediggers forgot to dig the grave and he didn’t know what to do – so ended up covering the coffin with a sheet of artificial grass.

“Then there are the nearly-but-not quite funerals. I was called out to visit an old lady in a nursing home because she was dying. I was shown to her room and she was sleeping.

“As I anointed her, she opened one eye and said: “You’re a bit early, me duck.” She made a full recovery.”

Read it all here.

3 thoughts on “Communard in the community

  1. Charles Cowling
    Claire Callender

    if only they were all like that


    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling
    gloriamundi

    XPiry wouldn’t be the only atheist who would praise Richard Coles and those like him; “faith, hope and charity, these three; and the greatest of these is charity.” “Charity” translated nowadays as “love,” but it’s a bigger term, really, than what we usually mean by “love.” It’s what we all need, look for, and should try to add to the world. Even the Bible says it’s greater than faith (or non-faith)!

    I too have found clergy of all varieties civil and often, when there’s time, interesting, if our paths cross. One vicar of my acquaintance has a regular column in his parish newsletter which is about wine. Valuable info – times for the Easter communion, and observations about a cracking little Shiraz from SE Australia to be found in the Co-op at only £5.99..

    Richard Coles not only comes across as one of the good guys, he is one of the good guys, and the story of how he came to the priesthood is moving and thought-provoking, but it’s only for him to tell, really. He’s also deeply civilised and knowledgeable, and worried about the dangerous ignorance, in theological terms, of so many evangelical Christians, who know nothing except their own faith and bend Christianity to fit it. (Like asking for divine guidance over going to war in Iraq and guess what? He said yes…)

    Strikes me “Please Don’t Leave Me This Way” could be a good funeral song?

    “You’re a bit early, me duck!” Classic. Heroine.

    So thanks Charles and XP, and floreat Ricardus!


    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling
    X.Piry

    Richard Coles is often on the radio, and comes across as one of the good guys.

    Most of the clergy I’ve met (changing time at the local crem) are also good guys – happy to listen, happy to let us all hold different views.

    People like Revd Coles are good for the church, I’m glad that he’s getting a high profile.

    (Yes, I realise that coming from an atheist, this may sound odd, but I’ve no desire to abuse anyone’s beliefs).

    Putting more kindness into the world is one of the best things that we can all do.


    Charles Cowling

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