I've always found debate involving different ideas to be stimulating - within limits that is. The basis of good politics is disagreement over philosophy and ideas. So it will come as no surprise for you to learn that I'm fascinated by extremes in human behaviour. And I can think of no greater gap between extremes than the 'comments' thread on Guido Fawkes' blog, and the Mayor of Newtown's Civic Service, which I attended this morning. Where Guido's readers see nothing but ill when they reflect on the merits of politicians, today's preacher saw goodness and love.
The service was held at the Hope Community Church in Newtown. I've always referred to it as the 'Pentecostal Church'. I've been there before to meetings and to visit the attached residential home. But today was the first time I've been to a service. I was seriously impressed. Lots of young people, clearly enjoying themselves. The service was constructed around a sense of optimism that's a bit alien to me. I admit to having within me that streak of the dark pessimism that is typically Welsh - and without which the late Sir Kyffin Williams wouldn't have been a great artist.
Anyway back to the extremes. The sermon (or it could been the address) was given by Alan Hewitt. I've never heard anything like it. In praise of public servants!! Honestly. For twenty minutes he spoke about me and my kind (not personally of course) in the most generous of terms. When he finished, I felt pretty good about myself - all the Mayor's official guests did. It probably made us want to go out and do some more good. What really impressed me was that with each new statement in praise of politicians, there were audible murmurings of assent from the regular churchgoers. Cllr. Richard White was positively bursting with pride by the end - a truly joyous sight to behold, and which inspired him to make a very good speech later.
But it would take me a while to get used to it. To me, applause in church a bit shocking. And all the arm waving by the congregation while singing, and the shouts of 'Hallelujah' etc. during the sermon shocked me as well. But when I think about it, why on earth not? There's no law against having a good time in church. And there were some fantastic ideas. I've seen big screens in the pub where the punters can all watch the Premiership, but never three big screens in church where I could read the words of the hymns, without having to resort to my reading glasses! At one stage I felt as though I was in the cinema.
The whole occasion was worship through a prism of optimism - revolutionary for me. I'm too 'conservative' to change my way of worshiping. But watching huge numbers of young people joining in an optimistic vision of humanity through worship of Jesus Christ tells me that the Hope Community Church has got something very right indeed. Oh and I must add my thanks and best wishes to Joy Jones, Mayor of Newtown and husband Roy, a Berriew man.