Back in the early eighties, when i was a student, i used to attend St.Peter’s Church at Golden Rock, Trichy. The person who used to collect offertory by passing the offertory bag was a retired Colonel, always dapper, and used to sing in a baritone and move from pew to pew passing the bag. While the Colonel did so, he used to sing the Offertory HYMN out of his memory. These hymns were not merely well known hymns like, ROCK OF AGES, ABIDE WITH ME, LEAD KINDLY LIGHT or O GOD OUR HELP IN AGES PAST, but some obscure hymns too. As he stood at the aisle of each pew, the entire line used to stop singing and listen to the Colonel sing with emphasis on certain words of the hymn. I for one was not merely impressed with his memory, but also his devotion to singing while still engaged in collecting the offertory.
Fast forward, after 2 and a half decades and i find myself in St. Mark’s Cathedral, MG Road, Bangalore for the midnight service of the day intervening between 2009 and 2010. I get ready to make my offering, and a guy balding before his time, with a coat over his tees and a blue denim passes the offertory bag. He has no clue to the words of the offertory hymn. He chews gum, and vigorously at that! What a tension when an unworthy man collects the offering that is made to the Almighty, at the opening of the new year! Not only that he chews gum while the service is on, but nods with a smile at his acquaintances with the gum precariously held between his rows of teeth, showing itself while he stretches his lips for that plastic smile.
I was left wondering if the Church administration has declined or that i have become old and still caught up in the time warp? In any case, neither my friends nor the members of my family noticed the bubble-gummer, chewing his way to glory, while he was collecting offertory.
Maybe the younger generation was more sympathetic, upon the dawn of 2010, maybe the prematurely balding man had to deliver a salivating kiss to his girl-friend/wife that he had to get readied for that opening kiss of the decade. Personal compulsions override propriety at times. For an outsider like me. it seems sacrilegious though.