Earlier this week I was conducting the funeral service for one of those mythical “old ladies” who sits in the back seat of the church, and to whom in years past ministers were encouraged to preach. The ridiculous idea being that they indicated the accessibility level at which to aim. Patronising nonsense of course, because some of the finest theologians I know, and some of the most mature wise human beings it’s been my privilege to meet, inhabited (and still inhabit) those back seats!
And the woman whose funeral I took this week was one of those theologians; wise, experienced, faith simple and strong, but a faith tested in the hard places and tough times of a long life. She was a single mum in the early 1950's when there were precious few benefits and safety nets; she rented a two up and two down, converted the front room, and opened a corner shop open all hours; learned to drive and got an old Bedford van, became the taxi and supporter in chief for the local football team, and in the late early 60's was road manager for a couple of Manchester pop groups.
And there's more - but that's enough to rebuke the stereotypes. In an age impatient with age, and a society where being old is getting harder to be, maybe it’s those old women and men at the back of the church who can teach us a thing or two about what’s what in life. Edith’s favourite word was “trust”, followed closely by “risk”. And a favourite verse: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.”