Before I switched to the back row, I played my rugby as a flying winger (actually more of a brutal charger) - and won Shrewsbury RUFC's cup for most tries in a season twice. But no matter how spectacular the try, I never celebrated - just jogged back quietly to my kick-of position. Took the same approach when I was elected an MP in a pretty spectacular result last May. Banned all ostentatious celebration. Never liked putting my inner feelings on show. I knew that my opponent and his supporters were distraught, and I wanted to show people how to win with dignity. Not sure it worked. Everyone just thought I was suffering from shock!! Anyway, its this sort of 'reserve' that makes worship at the Hope Community Church 'not for me'. And I'm too old to change now. Which is a pity, because it is such a hugely successful church which attracts hundreds of worshipers - and I've greatly enjoyed the two occasions that I've been to services there.
This morning, it was the Cllr. Joy Jones, the Mayor of Newtown's Civic Service. Must have been over 300 there. The first thing that struck me was the precision. The service started at 10.30 - on the dot. And the technology worked perfectly. Wouldn't have mattered if I'd forgotten my glasses because the words were up there on three big screens - working better than any autocue I've ever used. How does the Hope Church do it, when every conference I've ever been to has problems. The service began with 'How Great Thou Art', my absolute favorite hymn - though I usually sing it at funerals.
Really enjoyed the Message (sermon) by Pastor Alan Hewitt. Began by condemning (bit strong perhaps) 'aggressive secularism'. I absolutely agree. The airwaves over the last few days have been invaded by voices not content to live happily in their own atheism (to which I have no objection) but want to force it on everyone else. These 'voices' must be very disappointed that the Pope's visit went off so brilliantly - as did Joy's Civic Service in the Hope Community Church. Alan also brought Robert Owen into his 'message'. I applaud this as well. Robert Owen was one of the greatest social reformers that the world has ever known - and he lived the early part of his life in Newtown. I really should have included him in my Maiden Speech, particularly since the Scots are trying to claim some ownership rights over him. And Alan lauded Bishop William Morgan, who has become more of a Montgomeryshire man since the Tanat Valley was transferred to my constituency. He spent much of his life translating the Bible into Welsh, so that the people of Wales could read it.
And then the strangest of things happened. The whole event had been a bit odd, in that the entire congregation seemed to appreciate the work that elected people do. Anyone elected knows that criticism (often aggressive) usually goes with the job. Anyway, Pastor Alan Hewitt called me up to the front and prayed for me - so that I could make good decisions, and serve the people well. Tony Blair had the hand of history on his shoulder. Well I had the hand of Alan Hewitt on mine. For someone who finds ostentation a bit unnatural, it was quite an experience. All in all, today was rather a special day.