To interrupt my Cambridge saga. Yesterday Carol celebrated her birthday in atypical fashion, awaking on the eighth floor of a Travelodge near Crystal Palace. Carol opened her gifts and sheaves of cards while sipping tea in a bathroom mug. I went down eight floors to collect 3 cards still in the car but on returning found a wood pigeon enjoying our furniture. For safety reasons the window opened only a fraction yet still this wide-bodied noisy bird managed to join us, flying its own air-show routines touching down on every surface. The hotel manager had never experienced this before and mercifully the bird eventually exited of its own accord. And in recompense we have a voucher for the same value of our stay. A birthday bonus.
Lunch with our good friend Vic Jackopson at Dulwich Art Gallery cafe proved to be a lengthy affair. After a patient hour we learned a mistake in the kitchen had delayed service and to soften the blow we were awarded tea and cakes to take away. So another birthday bonus.
But the main reason it was unusual - Carol had to attend the 140th. anniversary of Chatsworth Baptist Church in West Norwood, London. Part of her really wanted to - this was her church family when she was baptized, married and big events happened like my ordination and induction as Principal of Spurgeon's. But this was her birthday after all! Planned for 5:00 pm who would come? On a Saturday? At the front doors balloons and banners cascaded out from the church down the railings outside. Would you believe it? Inside a full church with people who had come back from the past, local ministers, the mayor, and many people with a significant place in the story of the church. We celebrated in a service for over 2 hours during which I preached and was able to ambush Carol into sharing her testimony. Instead of me telling the story I knew it would be so much better coming from her, but I also knew the more notice she was given the more nervous she would become. So ambushing was necessary and (without exaggeration) I saw the whole congregation lean forward to catch every word with whoops and applause. It was spectacular and everyone agreed - just right!
Moving into the hall next door we saw two magnificent cakes. One to mark 140 years and another two tier cake with extravagant icing bow on top for Carol's birthday. Everyone joined to sing to her and she was presented with a beautiful basket bouquet of flowers. We didn't get to bed until nearly 1.00 am the next day but we agreed the whole birthday had been a memorable one for so many good reasons. Today we went to our own church and found it difficult to describe just what had happened when people asked us about Carol's big day. It was quite full.