PC: A good week at the ‘New Wine’ Christian convention at the Peterborough showground, followed by a week in the Lake District
CF – Ah yes, I am aware of and fascinated by your proclivity for stumbling around wind swept hills with only a block of Kendal mint cake for sustenance and the odd hermit and sheep for company. What is it about hill walking that you find so absorbing, especially the Munros?
PC: It’s hard to explain, but there’s little to match the pleasure of a big walk, from the planning, through the day or days themselves and of course the joy of remembering over a pint afterwards.
CF: And have you ever had to share a bothy with aforementioned hermit (or possibly some of our woolly friends)?
PC: You leave the sheep outside, but in terms of people that’s one of the great features of a bothy night: occasionally there might be someone you’d rather not see again, but although it’s outside your control, generally you meet a great mix of people. A bit like a church, I suppose.
CF: I meet the odd person I don’t want to see again, normally followed swiftly by the words “when I am getting that twenty quid back you borrowed?” Tell me a bit about your pre-Ely life and how you ended up here:
PC: I moved here in 1979, so pre-Ely is long ago. I did my degree in Cambridge, followed it with four years teaching in Norfolk, then came to Ely. I thought I’d stay two to three years before moving on, but I’m still here 40 years later.
CF – I speak to a lot of people who drift in and never leave. Ely seems to have that pull. When I told a local that I had been in Ely for a good long while – 8 years – he laughed so hard that his false teeth shot out and embedded themselves in the wall opposite.
Onto your faith life, what is your favourite book from the Bible and why?
PC: Strangely it is Ecclesiastes, which is the musings of a world-weary ruler thousands of years ago. Its cynical tone matched the mindset of my 20-year-old self, and was actually a step on the way into faith for me.
CF – Well that’s the wonder of the bible. Appeals to all sorts. My old boss is an Ecclesiastes nut. He is a flash, jaguar-driving uber-extrovert. Not exactly a mirror image of you is he? And what is your favourite verse?
PC: Jeremiah 29 v11-13 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
CF – That is a wonderful verse. God’s promise that He has plans for us and that we can rest assured of our future.
So, If you were an animal, what would it be and why?
PC: It’s got to be a cheetah – lean and fast!
CF – I now have this image in my head of you taking down a gazelle on the savannah. Just make sure you wash the gore off your chops before delivering your sermon – we don’t want any frightened kids do we?
You do a tremendous amount for St Mary’s in your capacity as Treasurer. What is the favourite part of your job?
PC: ((This is so sad) when the month-end books all balance first time! (I am also interested in people’s conversion and spiritual development, of course, but…)
CF – Nothing sad about that. When I had my own Limited Company, I used to get a kick out of getting the net of the expenditure/income to agree to the Bank Account balance. On one occasion, having finally worked out a £100 discrepancy, I leapt out of the bath yelling “eureka”. Sally told me never to use her laptop in the bath again and that a little control was required when her dear old Mum was staying (she has never been the same since).
And what is the least?
PC: When it take me four hours to find a 63p error!
CF – But doubtless you high five the dog when you find it (see earlier bath comment). What do you like to do in your spare time?
PC: As I mentioned before, walking, especially in wild country, either with friends and family or alone.
CF – And what about the hermit? As a fellow enthusiast for the hills, I concur, other than when the sun is setting, you have no idea where you are on the map, there are no landmarks, no phone signal or internet connection and you are surrounded by boggy moorland (this has happened more than once).
Tell me, what do you think is good about the Church of England and what needs to change?
PC: Its great strength is its solidity, the breadth of contact with people – both theologically and geographically – which come from its 500-year history. At best this enables an attitude of trust which allows churches the freedom to experiment and develop. However at worst it can lead to an unhealthy focus on the past and a fear of change which are a recipe for stagnation and decline.
CF – I certainly agree with the fear of change, coupled with a desire to stick with illogical and anachronistic processes, but it does feel like a nice old pair of [slightly worn] slippers.
And what do you regard as your great likes and dislikes?
PC: Such a dangerous question! My greatest satisfaction comes from a challenge which stretches me but is achievable. My dislike is coffee shops; they have turned an item that can be made in ten seconds and costs three pence into one with a ten minutes queue and which costs three pounds (no, I don’t drink coffee).
CF – Aw Piers, I thought we were soul-brothers until that last comment. Sitting in Nero, sipping a latte and battling through a fiendish Sudoku is one of life’s great pleasures surely?
PC: On Sudoku I agree, but coffee … No
CF: So an honourable draw. Finally, sum yourself up in fewer than 20 words
PC: Flawed, sometimes too driven, but still trucking on as a Christian after 46 years.
CF – Great stuff Piers, many thanks for your time (and don’t spend too much time looking for that 63p)