On the way out of the room last night someone very graciously pointed out that I was sporting a bit of a belly. Little did he know that I had been on a diet. If he thinks I am a little porky now he should have seen me a couple of months ago!
I am sure that I was not the only person who was apprehensive about the twenty-year school reunion. I had seen very few of these people in the last ten years (since the ten-year reunion), and had not seen some of them since leaving Wesley. While the ten-year reunion seemed like coming back after a long summer break, this was different; life has moved on and schooldays no longer feel like yesterday.
It was a really good night. Of course, it was great to see people that I had been close with, but it was also nice to talk to some people I had not known that well. Some of the teachers were there (including one who told me an answer in a science exam. I came first in my class in that exam by 1% so I reckon I owe her). I thanked my old rugby coach for giving me far more of a break than I deserved and he told me that I had a very accurate lineout throw and was as tough as nails (I got him to repeat these thoughts to Caroline who took little notice of them). There was one person there who I had heard had died; last night I thought it better not to tell them that an old friend was saying they were dead.
There were the people who weren't there. I remembered Raymond Chawla, a day-pupil who, in first year, was a boarder for about one week. When the morning bell went we pretended that it was a fire alarm and fled out of the dorm. There was Reza Raisin who lives in Iran. Reza was offended that we called him 'fruit-cake', not realising that it was simply because his surname was 'Raisin'. When he first came to Ireland he wore underpants that made us laugh, but I wear similar ones now. Maybe Iran is twenty years ahead in fashion terms. There was my friend Andrew Murray, who has disappeared since college; McAdam, who had the lame excuse of that he was going kite-surfing; Dr. Cheeser PhD (married to the delightful Mary) was sailing; Helen Pheiffer, whom I had really enjoyed catching up with at the ten-year reunion (and whose mother, as matron in the boarding house, is one of the nicest people on the planet); and, of course, Mark Argyle, who tragically died after falling from a motorcycle in Greece.
I didn't feel the evening was a superficial exercise, with us all trying to prove that we had made it in life. However, I was aware that you are only going to relate to people on a surface level in such a setting. So much more is going on in all our lives than initially meets the eye. There will be people who have suffered bereavements, sickness, broken relationships and mental health struggles. I have had my own issues, but wasn't going to shout about it from the rooftops.
At the ten-year reunion someone told me, on hearing that I was training to be a Methodist minister, that they were glad that I had found something that gave me satisfaction in life. It was a little frustrating; I don't see my faith as something that is simply personal and satisfying. I see the claims of Jesus as being relevant to each person's life. At the ten-year reunion I anticipated that people would feel awkward when they heard that I was training 'for the church', so when people asked my what I was doing I began 'please don't let this stop the conversation ...' This time I decided to act normal about being some sort of religious fundamentalist. One person did look a bit awkward when I told him, but he then seemed to regain his composure, as if thinking 'That's not so bizarre. I can deal with this'.
I look forward to the next reunion. I hope that I will find our paths crossing more frequently. Most pressingly I long for these people to come in contact with people who are convinced that Christianity is true and relevant, for I desire for them to know for themselves what I have found in Christ.