The reverend was always there to greet you at the doorsteps and the heating was never turned off in winter, may the warmth of the Lord lure you in here he used to say with a big smile on his face at the entrance of a country church somewhere in Norfolk.
The Pastor had Dutch roots and he even knew a few Dutch words like “Hoe gaat het?”, -“How are you?” that he had learned from his great parents.
It was a small church, maybe 50 people could be in there but that was also the size of the congregation so it was perfect. As in Baptist terms, he was a liberal reformed pastor, “you were already christened as a baby no need to do it twice” he told me once “so just join in and enjoy the warmth, we are here for you son.”
In the back of the church a small woman with a hat with a veil wearing lace gloves with a white embroidered handkerchief tucked in her sleeve and a cloud of 4711 Eau de Cologne around her was playing a huge three keyboard Harmonium that was connected with a long tube to a hoover in the consistory delivering air for the instrument. It had a mirror with wood carved angels around it in which she could see the reverend’s signals and follow the service.
Her legs couldn’t reach the pedal work but that didn’t matter, the music she made with the organ came straight out of heaven above us who would notice that she didn’t use the pedal work anyway. And as she played Great is Thy Faithfulness we slowly walked in and dropped a pound in the large black marble collection box and we sat down waiting for the reverend to come in. In the few seconds after the organ became quiet and he started the service you could just hear that old hoover blowing in the wind.
I loved to sing from the old hymn books, the traditional songs that all of the others grew up with but were new to me -I just arrived from Swampyland- but even now my favourite hymn is still Great is Thy Faithfulness as it was the first hymn in my life I heard sitting there in that little Baptist Chapel for the first time.
But the best thing was in Summer and it was not the service but what came after it. Because then large wooden tables and benches were set up with red and white chequered table cloths on them and we would have “Pot Luck Dinner” once a month.
Usually, I would have a box with food made at home in Old Hall strapped to the luggage rack of my pushbike, sandwiches with salmon and cress, chicken and cheese and cucumber and a thermos bottle with coffee made from freshly ground Dutch coffee beans whilst others who came by car always brought other food in pans and oven dishes that could be heated up on the stove or in the oven in the consistory. Happy and cheerful families, children around the tables playing tag and always someone calling me “Come, sit here with us today”.
I had a lot to thank for in those days.