Rowan’s Way: 7 Evensong

The next month or so taught Ryan a lot about dating a vicar. May, June, and July are the busiest months of the year for weddings, so the idea of a Saturday afternoon spent at the beach, one he often floated, was knocked on the head. Sunday, with seven churches to cover, even with help, was pretty exhausting, and by the time Monday came, I was pretty well flat out with fatigue. It must have been fairly serious from his point of view I thought, as he kept coming round.

My favourite of all the churches was Little Linstead. It had originated as a chapel of ease and had somehow survived the steep decline in congregations since the 1960s. I suspected this was because it was on the Surtees estate and his lordship liked having his own church, even if he and the family were not the most assiduous attenders. It felt like the orphan of our Deanery, as it got only one Communion service and one evensong a month.

I had always loved evensong, not the choral evensong so beloved of so many Radio 3 listeners, but the plain spoken evensong of the Book of Common Prayer. There may only have been myself, Miss Bennet and her companion, and Mrs. Rooke there, but you could feel that God was there too. As I gave the final blessing, I felt an air almost of elation. Miss Bennet smiled as we shook hands:

“You seem very happy Miss Topham. I have to say, as you know, I was not in favour of ordaining women back in the nineties, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and Susan and yourself do us very well.”

I thanked her. Her sentiment was not uncommon in this backwater. It was nice to hear, and as I disrobed back in the vestry, I reflected how lucky I was.

One of the things I loved about Little Linstead was that I could walk it. There was a footpath from the Old Rectory across the wheatfields straight to the Church. It was half an hour if I dawdled a little, and on this beautiful summer’s evening, why wouldn’t I? I loved the swoosh of my cassock against the wheat as I walked. God was in His Heaven and all was right with the world. I stood and listened to the birds.

High overhead murmurations flew. The quietness enveloped me.

As I came to the wooden footbridge across the ditch I became conscious of a noise from beyond the hedge. Who on earth could be walking that way of a Sunday evening? There was no barking dog, so that ruled out the usual suspects. The sun was low now on the horizon and dazzled my eyes, so all I could see as I approached the bridge was a tall, imposing figure, silhouetted by the light.

“Rowan, finished early I see!”

It was Ryan.

For a moment I was overwhelmed, so much so that I yielded to the cliché – and fell into his arms. For a moment the word was as dead to me as I was to it; all that existed was the beating of our hearts. He held me for seemed forever (and must, in fact, have been all of five minutes). The warmth and the safety were infectious, and I felt for a moment as though all I wanted to do was to rest like this.

“Well, madam, this will never do,” he joked, pulling away with every show of reluctance. “We need to get you back to the Old Rectory where Cook has supper on the go.”

As I had been anticipating a scratch supper of whatever was not too out of date in my fridge, this was indeed welcome news, and I held his hand tight as he guided me across the wheatfields to the Old Rectory.

It was warm enough, and light enough, for us to dine out. He was charm itself, and I began to relax.

“Must you go back?” He looked at me quizzically.

I knew what answer I would give, but was tempted for a moment.

“You know the answer,” I told him.

“Can’t blame a man for asking,” he jested.

The kiss he gave me as he dropped me off home took my breath away. This, I reflected as I stripped off my clericals, was getting to be like one of those books my step-mother used to read. The phone went. Who on earth?

“Rowan here,”

“Is that the vicar?” The voice at the other end sounded anxious. I confirmed it was and asked how I could help.

“It’s difficult,” said the voice, “I need to talk about something confidential with someone who isn’t the police.”

“I would be happy to talk. Do you want to talk on the phone, or would face to face be better?”

“I don’t live far away, I can be with you in ten minutes.”

“Can I ask what it’s about?”

“Yes, yes, of course, it’s about my employer’s son, Ryan Surtees.”

The line went as silent as my heartbeat. The buzz of the broken line echoed through the room.

About JessicaHoff
Church of England. Survivor. Grateful. Rabid feminist lefty, according to some, wishy-washy liberal according to me.

8 Responses to Rowan’s Way: 7 Evensong

  1. the unit says:

    Still reading and following. Forget what I thought this was going to play out a couple of weeks ago. You said I far off base.
    Ok, I still am. Got to follow ’til I get the message. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Nicholas says:

    I’m wondering if Rowan is one of those ladies who was taught how to shoot as a child but never shoots unless in self-defence.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 01.21.21 : The Other McCain

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