At the Inlet: July, Part 4 (A trip to the beach)

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Julian wasted no time ploughing into her catechisation; he started during dinner the following evening. There was method in his madness though: the catechism began with the subject of Terry’s sponsors in baptism, so they spent dinner talking about Terry’s godparents and her growing up at St. Sebastian’s, which made for nice dinnertime conversation.  As dinner wound down, Julian wanted to get into some more of the catechism, but Terry had other things on her mind.

“Julian, does anyone here at the Cathedral do visitation?”

Julian was taken aback by the question.  “I’ve never heard it put that way.”

“I know I did a lot of it as a pastor—in a small church especially, people expected it.”

“I still find it strange to hear you refer to yourself as a pastor, even though I know you were a fine one,” Julian replied.

“Many people found it strange, but they sent me to plant the Barlin church so I did.  God made a way for it to grow.”

“That right—you were its first pastor, weren’t you?”

“It was the third attempt.  None of the men wanted the job.  I had to work full time to support myself.  Max helped to get my job as secretary to then Duke Henry.  After my workday was done, I often went to visit people—current members who were sick or had problems, people who had visited our church or one of the prayer groups we had, or just needed the Saviour.  Barlin is small, so I didn’t have to go far.  But you still haven’t answered my question about visitation here.”

Julian thought for a minute.  “All of our parishes have communicants and memberships; how often the parishioners are visited depends, of course, on the rector.  Some are more diligent than others about it.  Our problem at the Cathedral, however, is in part due to our odd legal status.”

“What’s odd about it, Julian?”

“Under our law—both secular and canon—the Bishop is the chaplain to the King and Queen—Desmond is chaplain to His and Her Highnesses.  The Cathedral, thus, is the King’s Chapel, and as such has no means by which a communicant of our Church can directly affiliate with the Cathedral.  The people who attend service here are, technically, on membership rosters elsewhere—usually at St. Matthew’s in Serelia Beach.  But we have no way of really keeping up with them—we do not even have a proper Vestry, although we do have an Altar Guild.  That’s one reason why we only need one service on Sunday morning—Sunday evening is for other purposes.”

“Then perhaps we should start with what we would call your ‘regular attenders,’” Terry suggested.  “I know you believe in visitation.”

“I felt it was my duty to do something—they were in such grief, and no one else was…”

“…doing anything about it.”  Terry finished.  “But think about the people you see every Sunday—who might we go see tonight?”

Once again Julian had to think.  “There’s the Chancellor’s father and mother—she’s an invalid, they only come occasionally.  They leave about three blocks from here.”

“An excellent place to start—let’s do it.” With that they went out of both the Cathedral close and the palace grounds hand in hand into town.  Terry had found the Serelians to be a charming people, but she still had a hard time getting over the desultory way in which they kept their town in general and their houses in particular.  As Julian had promised, though, in three blocks they reached a small concrete block house in a lot not much bigger than the house.  Julian and Terry walked up to the front door and Julian knocked.

“Peace be to this house, and to all that dwell in it,” Julian said when the man of the house answered the door.

“My, Reverend, this is a surprise—and such a fellow visitor you have here.”  He was grizzled, in his late 60’s, neatly but plainly dressed.

“Oh, yes—this is my friend, Terry Marlowe,” Julian said nervously.  His next step would have been to reach for his Prayer Book but Terry had his right hand firmly clasped in her left.

“Her Highness’ assistant—this is an event,” the man said.  “I’m Harold Dillman—you’ve met my son, the Chancellor.  Come on in”—he ushered them into his living room—“and meet my wife Loretta.” They came in; Loretta was sitting in her wheelchair, but reached out her hand to greet them.  All of them were seated; if Loretta hadn’t had her own chair, one of them would have been in the floor.  “It’s been a long time since a man of the cloth has darkened this door,” Harold said.  “So what brings you two here?”

“It was Terry’s idea,” Julian admitted.  “She was a pastor in her church and country, and had done quite a lot of it.  She asked me about the Cathedral’s visitation.  This is ultimately my answer.”

Harold looked at Terry.  “I don’t know about her church, but her country has caused us a lot of grief lately.”

“Oh, but she’s in our service now,” Julian came back eagerly.

Harold looked Terry over again.  “You’re originally from Verecunda, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” Terry replied.  “Point Collina, to be exact—since the country has been dismembered, the distinction is significant.”

“It really is,” Harold agreed.  “So you’re just learning your way around here, aren’t you?”

“There’s a lot to learn,” Terry replied.  “Your son was one of the first people I met when I first came here in March.  He’s a fine man.  He actually received me as a subject of the king.”

“We think he’s fine too—we just don’t see him often enough,” Loretta said.  “The king keeps him busy.”

“I have some roots there myself,” Harold said.  “My mother’s family was from Driscoll, but my father’s father came here from Verecunda long ago.”

“Any relation to the gynaecologists?” Terry inquired.

“Cousins,” Harold answered.  “I’m glad they’re here, but it’s a shame why they had to move. My grandmother’s family was from Hallett, in Uranus—her maiden name was Stanley, so I’m related to that young lady who now is known as ‘the Ponytail Princess.’”

“Julia,” Terry happily said.  “A wonderful Christian girl.”

“I got to meet her when she was on her honeymoon,” said Harold.  “She has an interesting life ahead of her.”

“I was there when it changed so dramatically,” Terry said.

“I understand you might have missed it if our dear Princess hadn’t have been the nosey kind,” Harold came back.  They all got a chuckle out of that.

“I used to be in the Royal Serelian Navy,” Harold resumed.  “I came up through the ranks.  By the time this last war rolled around, I had a desk job as commander of the Royal Naval Docks.  We would have won that war if that fool Amherst hadn’t gotten such big ideas with that big operation he tried at Cresca—we tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t listen and neither would the king.  Now we are only half the country we were.  I retired after the cease-fire.  It was just as well, as Loretta was hit by a car just about then and hasn’t walked since.”  They chatted about many things; Julian had known them for a long time, so there was plenty to chat about.

Finally Julian said, “We have missed you in God’s house.”

“It’s hard to go with Loretta the way she is,” Harold replied.  “Besides, after what we went through in this war, it’s hard to see whether God cares about this place or not, or if He’s even out there to care.”

Terry looked at Harold intensely.  “My God has never failed me,” she began.  “He was there for me when I married my husband, and He was there when I buried him.  He was there when I brought my son into the world, and He was there when I sent him out for the last time.  He was there when I left Verecunda in secret, and He was there when I returned with the Aloxan army.  He is here with me now that I have come to Serelia to serve, and if we had lost the war, He would have been at my side if I were hanged outside the palace gate.  My God has never abandoned me, and if you’ll trust Him, you find He will be there for you too.”

Harold looked at her with a surprised look.  “You really believe that, don’t you?”

“I’ve staked my life on it.”  There was a silence in the room.  Then Terry turned to Loretta and said, “Would you like for us to pray for you?”

Now the surprise was Loretta’s.  “That would be very kind of you.”  Terry got out her little bottle of anointing oil.

“You’re one of them, aren’t you?” Harold asked.

“Yes, I’m one of them.”  She dabbed her right index finger in the oil, then laid it on Loretta’s forehead and began to pray.  Julian grasped Terry’s left hand and prayed along the best he could.  Terry prayed about a minute and then ended.

“That was nice of you,” Loretta said.

“Once again, we’d love to see you in church sometime,” Julian said, looking for something to say.

Harold thought a minute.  “I might take you up on that sometime soon.”

“Do you need help in getting to church?” Terry asked, almost reflexively.

“No—we’ll get Devin to bring us.  He doesn’t have anything else better to do on Sunday anyway.”  They wound it up and said their goodbyes.  Terry went out the door first, but as Julian left Harold called his name.  He stopped and turned around.

“Yes, what is it?” Julian asked.

“That’s a fine girl you’ve got yourself there,” Harold said.  “Don’t let her slip through your fingers like you did the last one.”

“Yes, sir,” Julian nervously replied, and left.

As they reached the street they saw Devin coming from the government complex towards the house.  “Fine to see you two out this evening,” Devin said.  “I’m coming by to check on my father and mother.”

“We were just visiting them,” Julian replied.

“Oh?  Something wrong?” Devin asked.

“No—it’s Terry’s idea for visitation.”

“Good one—keep it up,” Devin said.  As Devin went into the house, Julian and Terry walked back towards the palace gate.

“In our Church, we usually use a solid nard for unction, rather than liquid oil,” Julian said.

“Then bring some next time we go,” Terry replied.

“Also in our Church, the minister is the one who administers the Unction of the Sick.”

“Then next time you pray like that.”

Saturday morning was the normal practice time of the children’s choir at the Cathedral.  Their rehearsal room was upstairs; the two sets of pews for altos and sopranos were set in a V-shape, with the grand piano in the middle.  This gave Julian, sitting at the keyboard, a reasonable view of the whole choir, necessary with the group he was dealing with.  On this Saturday morning Terry decided to come and sit in on the practice and see just how Julian did it; she and Darlene were making enough progress on the charters to permit such a break.

The practice was unexceptional; the older children found her presence intriguing, though.  When it was over and Terry went over to Julian and asked, “Why don’t we go to the beach?  I’ve not had the chance to go since I’ve been here.”

Julian looked out the window and said, “Looks a little threatening today.”

“Then we need to get started early.”  Julian realised that she had already taken their decision, so he agreed.

“We’ll get ready in our respective apartments and meet in the middle, directly behind the palace proper,” Julian declared.  They then left the choir room and separated, Julian to his apartment and Terry to hers.

Terry had the longer trip initially, so she alternated between a run and a brisk walk.  Darlene was out with one of the staff, trying to start an herb garden at the palace.  She saw Terry and said, “What’s your hurry?”

“I’m meeting Julian on the beach,” Terry replied, racing onward.

Darlene turned to her assistant and said, “Quick, go get George and tell him to meet me at the Sea Garden—it’s important.”  As the assistant went on to summon the Prince, Darlene went on as rapidly as she could to the Sea Garden.

The Palace Beach wasn’t the best beach in Serelia by any means, as it was too close to the inlet.  It tended to fall off very rapidly into the ocean.  However, it had one virtue: it was private, restricted to those who lived in the palace compound or the Cathedral close.  On this day Terry and Julian had the beach to themselves, except for the occasional palace guard and at first the small cloud of witnesses gathering at the Sea Garden.

Julian reached the appointed spot first, dressed in a tacky pair of swimming trunks and shirt to match.  He stood and looked northwest up the beach, waiting for Terry.  It took what seemed to him to be an eternity for Terry to emerge from the beach door at the bottom of the living quarters, but finally she did.  He could make out that she was dressed in a beach robe and had sunglasses on, with a beach towel over her arm.  She made her way slowly down to beach towards Julian; he took in every step.

When she finally reached him, she stood in front of him in silence.  Then she took her sunglasses off and slipped them into the pocket of the robe.  Then she took her robe off, which revealed a full one-piece bathing suit.  Then she laid her robe and towel on the ground and stood looking at him.

A wide-eyed Julian took two steps back; once again it was his turn to put his hand in the mains.  They were in silence looking at each other when Terry said, “Why don’t we go into the ocean for a swim?”

“That’s a splendid idea,” Julian answered, regaining enough of his composure to speak.  He turned and started running towards the ocean.  He got halfway there when he realised that Terry wasn’t following him.  He stopped and turned back towards her.

“Going into the water would be a lot nicer if you’d take your shirt off,” Terry coolly observed.

“You’re absolutely right,” he said.  He walked back up to her, took his shirt off, and they went into the ocean hand in hand.

While they were doing all this, Darlene and George were in the Sea Garden, trying to be inconspicuous while doing the play-by-play.

“She’s still disgusting—I can’t believe how skinny she is,” Darlene said.

“I told you not to feed her so much conch chowder,” George gently scolded his wife.

“I had to do something to move this relationship on,” Darlene defended herself.

“Well, you’ve done it this time.”  They sat there and watched as the lovers enjoyed the water.

“Remember when we would play here long ago?” Darlene asked her own love.

“I do—you always liked those sand castles,” George answered.  They drew closer at the thought.  “I find it hard to believe that we’re sitting here watching two people ten years our senior and we’re the old married people.”

“What’s even more amazing,” Darlene added, “is that for both of them their most passionate love isn’t swimming in the water with them.”

Julian and Terry played and swam in the water for a long time, but finally got out and went back to where their towels were.  They dried off, then spread them out on the beach, and laid down facing each other.

“You’ve never told me about your time at university,” Terry said.

“Oh, so I haven’t.  As you know, my father was sexton at the Cathedral.  Everyone expected me to be the next sexton too, but by the time I was twelve I was playing the organ some.  So I was able to win a scholarship and study music on the mainland.  The Church told me that, if I would take a minor in theology, they would pay the additional expense and ordain me a priest.  Music is a demanding major, so I ended up spending five years getting my degree.”

“Did you enjoy your time there?”

“With my music, I did.  When I got there, they were amazed at how proficient at the organ I was, since I came from such a remote place.  It made less work for them.  I still didn’t have a lot of money, though, so I had to work.  I played jazz in nightclubs for a while.”

“Jazz—I didn’t know you played jazz.”

“That’s where I really learned how to properly improvise,” he said.  “I enjoyed playing the music in the clubs, even though I don’t think that kind of music has any place in the church.  Don’t some of your churches use it during their worship services?”

“All the time.”

“I eventually had to quit working in the clubs, though.”

“Why?  Because you were a theology minor?”

“Not really—they thought it was funny, even though they knew what kind of a person I was.  My studies got too demanding, though.  Besides, I got tired of the smoke and the drunks and the scantily-clad barmaids there—oh, I’m sorry,” Julian stopped himself, surveying his love.

Terry giggled.  “I’m flattered by the comparison.  But I don’t do this very often.  Even Darlene wondered why I wear long sleeves all the time.”

“I think your modesty is admirable.”

“There’s more to it, though.”  She turned her left arm to show the needle scars between her wrist and elbow from her days as a drug addict.  Julian winced; he winced again when she leaned her left shoulder towards him, showing the scar on the upper left arm from the war.  “God has brought me a long way.  So how did you like your theology studies?”

“Not so much.  I didn’t like all of the doubts they had.  It seemed to me that they doubted just for doubting’s sake.  Desmond really enjoys all that, but I don’t.  And they made fun of our church, too.”

“What did they say?”

“They thought it was too conservative—that was especially true of those who were connected with other churches in the Communion.  The same questions kept coming up—why don’t you change your Prayer Book?  Why don’t you think about ‘opening up’ on your beliefs?  Why don’t you consider ordaining women?  And then of course our relationship with the state was always a point of controversy.  One of my teachers told our entire class in my presence that he thought the Church of Serelia was ‘a blight on the Anglican Communion.’  After that I just wanted to get done with theology, concentrate on my music and come home, which I did.  Shortly after my return, our organist and choirmaster, who was my teacher, had to retire because of his poor health, and I’ve been at my duties here ever since.”

“That puts this church in a whole different light,” Terry observed.  “You know, we were going over the Apostles’ Creed—you know the Verecundans made your church eliminate any reference to Christ’s second coming.”

“They made them rewrite the Creed entirely,” Julian added.  “It was blasphemy.”

“You know,” Terry mused, “some people would think we’re crazy, out here on the beach, talking about the Creed.”

“It’s all I’ve ever known,” Julian said.

Terry reached out and stroked Julian’s face.  “When I’m here with you like this, on the beach with the ocean, I feel like I’m in the Garden of Eden.  Now I have an inkling of what our first parents felt.  They did have one other advantage, though.”

“What did you have in mind, Terry?” Julian asked, a little nervous.

She cast a glance towards the Sea Garden.  “Until the serpent showed up, only God was watching them.”

“Oh, dear,” Julian sighed, realising that palace romance was a spectator sport.  They talked for a long time about many subjects, even drifting back into the Creed from time to time.

“This isn’t moving very fast,” George said.  “All they do is talk.”

“Maybe they’re reaching beyond what they see in each other—which is beautiful enough—into what they can’t, which is even better,” Darlene replied.

At long last the weather looked like it was going to get nasty, so they picked up their things and embraced goodbye.  Julian stood watching her departure; she had put her robe back on and was carrying towel over her arm as she walked up the beach back towards the door.  She waved at George and Darlene as they prepared for the post-game analysis and bowed to the King and Queen, who were out on their balcony, taking this all in.  Julian did not start back to his apartment until she went through the door and out of sight.

Everyone’s routine went on as usual the following week.  Julian and Terry met faithfully for her catechism.  Julian read to her the question that came after the Creed: “What dost thou chiefly learn in these Articles of thy Belief?”

“First, I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world,” she replied, likewise reading.  “Secondly, in God the Son, who hath redeemed me, and all mankind.  Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God.”

Julian looked at Terry.  “I’m a little worried about this part.”

“Why?”

“Because churches such as yours are generally Reformed, and believe that Christ only died for the elect, and all that.”

“Pentecostal churches are not really ‘Reformed’ in that sense,” Terry explained.  “Mine—and most of us—are Wesleyan-Arminian in theology.  Jesus Christ did not come and die just for a few—He came in love for all of us.  It’s just that some of us elect to receive Him and some don’t.  It’s the same with sanctification—the Holy Ghost came to sanctify all the church, it’s just that some receive it and some don’t.  John Wesley was a lifelong Anglican—it was this kind of doctrine that helped him to understand sanctification as a second work after salvation.  I guess I’m coming full circle here, from an institutional standpoint.  The one thing Pentecostal churches have discovered is the third work, the baptism in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues as the initial evidence.”

“I heard you do that while praying over Loretta Dillman the other evening,” Julian said.  “I wasn’t prepared for it.”

“Why not?”

“I knew Pentecostals spoke in tongues, but we have always associated such things with people who lacked intelligence—something you obviously are well endowed with.”

“God has a great sense of humour, doesn’t he?” Terry asked.  “I’m glad you witnessed that.  I’ve never intended to hide that from you.”  She paused.  “If you believe the rumour mill, there’s not much I haven’t hidden from you.”

“It’s really terrible,” Julian noted.

“Don’t you people have a prayer”—she leafed through her prayer book—“yes, here it is: ‘Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid;’ I think in this place there aren’t any secrets from anyone else either.”  They both got a laugh out of that.

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