So the phone goes last night at 10pm. It’s bound to be a N Irish cousin, whose social lives just get going at that time of the evening. Hub answers it and sure enough, it’s Tony. Tony’s the cousin he’s closest to – more like a brother, really.
Anyway, Tony has been meeting Archbishop Justin, who is over in N Ireland at present and getting to know the people who were and still are deeply involved in reconciliation there (which includes Tony). And Tony says to him ‘I think you know my cousin Geoff …. ?’ (Hub to you!)
Now a long time ago Justin was a curate in the next parish when I was a curate, and then he was a vicar in the same diocese as us, and then he worked at Coventry Cathedral just after I worked there, so we’ve always been on friendly terms although not close.
And he says to Tony ‘Oh yes. Geoff is my hero.’
So Tony, intrigued, asks for the details. And Justin says that all the clergy were in a meeting to welcome the new Bishop of Coventry one day. And various clergy were giving 3-minute presentations about this and that. And they were being rather pompous and wanting to impress and sounding much better than they actually were. Then Hub got up – his brief was to talk about failure. For 3 minutes he told the assembled throng that he and I had tried everything we could think of in our parish, to no avail.
Afterwards he was mobbed by clergy who wanted to come up and say what a huge relief it was to have him saying what so many of them were feeling but too scared to admit.
That 3-minute talk has followed Hub around for years and years – I’ve been astonished at the number of people who pop up in faraway places and say ‘oh yes – you were the one who did that talk on failure – what a shot in the arm it was!’
And clearly, it’s not over yet …