I try, I really do, whenever I set foot inside a church. I did so on Christmas Eve for what was a charming, traditional Midnight Mass.
OK, it went on too long – though it was odd to see families leaving after just 20 minutes – what did they expect? The sermon went nowhere slowly. It began with an old joke and meandered through modern pilgrimages to Bethlehem, from which the vicar drew a conclusion. Trouble is, none of us could fathom what that conclusion was, as we trudged home merrily in the rain, discussing why anyone would go to church in a "onesie".
The carols were reassuringly familiar, and with the incense, Communion and sung prose, there were relatively few differences in this Church of England service from the Catholic Mass on which I was force fed. My problem lies with the actual words of the Mass. Who doesn't wish peace, kindness and charity for all? Or, love? I wish I could extrapolate from 80 minutes of continuous platitudes the greater meaning many in the congregation could, or the oldies in my own family still do. But I fell out with the Catholic Church long ago over issues such as contraception and infallible popes to transubstantiation, women priests and virgin births. Much of what was beaten into me (occasionally literally) made me angry.
And yet, with time that anger has diminished. I see the succour religion gives to my family and a part of me is envious. We all want something to believe in. I just cannot believe in "their" God, and the ritualistic paraphernalia. Don't get me started on wars in the name of religion, which is a lifetime of heated arguments around the Christmas dinner table. Sermon over.