I'm genuinely quite hesitant to say this, but I'm off to Westminster Abbey with the Pope tomorrow. Well, at least that's the reason I've given for not being able to do a number of other things invited to.
Obviously, 'with the Pope' is a significant exaggeration of what I anticipate will be the case. It's a 'service of prayer' at which the Pope will be in attendance - even that's my take as the official invitation says something like 'a service of evening prayer in the presence of ...'
Yesterday I walked into a gathering of our Ministers as they were talking about the Pope's visit and there was much laughter, but also a range of very sensitive issues mentioned, which have come into sharp focus with this visit.
I've had a range of responses from people when they've become aware I've accepted this invitation. There are those who probably think I've sold my soul and this ecumenical nonsense has eroded the last remains of non-conformity in my blood. On the other hand, there are those who simply think what a great social occasion to have been invited to, what do you have to wear, etc. Of course, most fall somewhere in between, but inwardly I also have, and continue to, experience an oscillation between both extremes. Thankfully most of my waking life is lived in-between too!
Does it imply I agree with Catholic doctrine on a whole range of issues? Obviously not.
Does it suggest I support any suggestion of 'cover-up' in child abuse scandals? Absolutely not.
Does it suggest I'm an inquisitive human being who responds to the flattery of being invited to such an historic occasion? Clearly, the evidence suggests this is also obvious.
Does it suggest I've had to compromise something of my own beliefs and understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ? Honestly - I've experienced no such tensions.
Does it make me uncomfortable - because the way I suspect the media coverage influences how some people regard the church, including renegade Baptists? Frankly yes.
Will I be wearing a hat, or a papal decoration, both of which are allowed on the invitation ......