When Serelia became a nation, King Albert—for reasons as mysterious as Constantine—decided to break with the Masonic tradition of Beran and adopt a form of Christianity in Serelia. So bishops and clergy of the Anglican Communion from Verecunda came in and formed the Church of Serelia, with himself as its head. It became and continued to be the only legal religion in Serelia. Things were more complicated in the southern parts of the country.
Albert generously endowed the church with land and funds to build churches, the most magnificent of which was the cathedral in Serelia, St. Thomas. It was located in the palace grounds but adjacent to the wall; it was the only part of the compound that was regularly accessible to the populace at large. It was modelled on the Gothic cathedrals of Europe, something of an anomaly amongst the palm trees. It was a sizeable church, with a courtyard surrounded by the parish hall, classrooms (which doubled as a primary school) and choir rehearsal room. In the back were the deanery and a nice garden. The Bishop’s Palace was separate from the cathedral itself but on the palace grounds.
Adam had invited Terry and William to church that morning; they gathered at the palace and met with the royal family. They went to the cathedral together, where they were all seated in the royal box, which was located on the Gospel side right under the pulpit. Although she was raised in Point Collina, where displays of wealth such as this were common, Terry was impressed with this edifice. At the front of the church was the altar, decked out in the purple of the season. Above it was a large stained glass window in the medieval style; there were smaller ones all up and down the sides of the church. At the back, above the narthex was the pipe organ, the pipes putting on an impressive display. The keyboard for the organ was also on the Gospel side, directly in front of the altar and behind one of the two facing choir lofts. The chancel, where all the musicians were located, was elevated from the main portion of the nave by a flight of stairs at the transept. The organist was playing an improvisation as the worshippers filed in for the divine office.
During this prelude, George leaned over to Terry, pointed towards the altar rail between the choir lofts and organ, and whispered, “That’s where Serelian kings are crowned. Someday I want you to come back and watch me be crowned king.’
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Terry whispered back.
Whispering came to an end when the prelude stopped and the processional hymn started. Everyone rose for the occasion, and it was an occasion only as a church in the Anglican Communion could do. The procession started with the acolytes, with their cross, tapers and flags, followed by a children’s choir in robes and starched ruffles, followed by the thurifer swinging his bay leaf, and finally the Bishop, decked out in a similar colour as the altar and complete with mitre, with his other ministers and lectors. All of this slow procession was accompanied by the singing of the choir and organist making yet another attempt to blow the stained glass windows out of the building with his loud organ playing.
Because of the arrival of the Drahlan guests, the King had requested the Bishop be the celebrant, and so the Bishop celebrated the Holy Communion. He only made mention of the special guests once, during the announcements. It wasn’t due to lack of time though; the service was quite long in a way that Terry hadn’t seen in many years. After about an hour and a half of up and down, the choir, acolytes and ministers recessed in like manner as they came and the service was at an end.
The royal family and their guests left through the narthex for the purpose of meeting the Bishop, who ceremoniously greeted the Serelian royals and Prince William as well.
“And this is Terry Marlowe, Royal Counsellor to King Henry of Drahla,” said George to the Bishop. The Bishop gave a jaundiced look at Terry. “She’s actually a minister in the church in her own country,” he added.
“There is only one church here, and that’s the Church of Serelia,” the Bishop pompously thundered. Terry, miffed by this high handed response, stepped aside from the rest of the royal family, when she felt her hand being shaken.
“Welcome,” the Serelian minister said. “I am Desmond Lewis, Dean of the Cathedral.” Lewis was a younger man with a more earnest countenance than the Bishop. Terry would later learn that most people referred to him by George’s moniker, “the Canon.” “I don’t mean to break into your schedule with the Royal Family, but would you care to join my family for lunch?”
“Let me find out,” said Terry, relieved to get an opportunity to get out of being trapped in the Bishop’s Palace for an afternoon. George, having witnessed her first encounter with the Bishop, was fine with this. She then told Prince William.
“I’ll be leaving after my time with King and Bishop,” said William. “Go with God, Terry.”
“I never go any other way,” Terry replied. She then turned away from the rest of the party, who started to make for the Bishop’s Palace. By then the Canon’s wife Priscilla and their three children Megan, Colette and Desmond Jr., who ranged in age from eight to three, had joined him. Terry was duly introduced to them all and they strolled through the courtyard to the deanery.
While in the courtyard Terry noticed a tall figure, still in his organist’s robe, looking at her very carefully. She was worried at first but then thought, “Is that the guy Cat wanted to set me up with in fourth form? Surely he’s married by now,” and with that thought went on.
It took a little bit of time for the maid to get lunch ready; this enabled them to get acquainted. Although the Canon and his wife seemed eager for this meeting, neither one of them quite knew what to do next. The children did, though, and they helped break the ice. When the meal was called to be served, they went to the table. The Canon asked Terry to return thanks, but Terry came back with, “Why don’t we ask Megan to return thanks?” Megan did so and the meal began.
But when the meal began, so did the questions that Desmond and Priscilla threw at Terry. What kind of church are you a minister in? How did you become one? How were you trained? Do they normally ordain women to the ministry? At this Desmond added, “That’s one reason why the Bishop gave you such a cold reception—he doesn’t like women ministers, and with the King has kept them out of the Church of Serelia, and he also doesn’t like ministers other than those in the Church. He also lost a brother at Drago early in the war.” But they continued their questions. What does Terry’s church believe? How were they so sure the Bible was true? What about speaking in tongues and the baptism in the Holy Spirit? How did they operate the church without state support? How were they so successful in getting their parishioners to give? Was the Drahlan Pentecostal Fellowship really the state church?
Terry answered all of these questions with patience, taken aback somewhat by their curiosity. But the question that Desmond then threw at her gave the most pause.
“Your Excellency,” he began, “in this church, when a child is born, he or she is brought for baptism. At this point their original sin is washed away and they are, in reality, Christians. They are then raised in the church, and join the church through Confirmation. Yet your church seems to teach that a person’s conversion is an event, one that they experience as an adult, young or old. I’ve always had a hard time accepting that such a change can be confined to an event, be so dramatic. Do you really believe that people are changed so profoundly?”
Terry sat and thought for a moment, then said, “I suppose the best way for me to answer your question is to tell the story of my own conversion experience.
“During prep school there were two events that threw my life into a mess. The first was my being raped by my prom date, which was arranged by my mother. The second was my father’s death—he died suddenly about six months before my graduation. I went into a downward spiral at that time, getting into drugs and prostitution”—
“What’s that?” asked Colette.
“Shh,” Priscilla said.
“—in part to support my habit and in part because I just lost control. That’s the way I was going through the university, and things just kept getting worse and worse—my grades, my health, everything.
“One night after midnight, after a harder than usual night of work, I was stumbling near campus when I spotted the Catholic Student Centre. I was raised Catholic but hadn’t been to church since I was raped. Something drew me in, despite my appearance.
“When I got there, I kind of lurched forward to the front, and tried to pray. But I couldn’t—I just sat there and sobbed without stopping, I felt so bad. I eventually fell asleep in the front pew for a bit. When I awoke—I don’t know when but it was still dark—I looked around. The sanctuary light was still burning quietly next to the tabernacle, but as I looked at the tabernacle a man in a while robe literally came out of the tabernacle, walked over to me and stood next to me. He said, ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
“My first impulse was to reach up and touch the man’s face, but I was overwhelmed by a sense of my own dirtiness, so I shrunk back. He then said, ‘Neither do I condemn you, go away and don’t sin any more.’
“I was stunned. ‘You can’t be serious—tell me the truth.’
“He replied, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’ I then collapsed, not waking up until early the next morning, when Father James Avalon, who was then the priest at the Student Centre, came and found me. I told him everything I had experienced; he explained what had happened and what I must do as my response. From that day forward I have walked with God because I know I encountered my risen Saviour and he forgave me, a sinner. And that’s ultimately how I know the Bible is true, because I have experienced God for myself.”
The end of her discourse brought silence to the room; Priscilla wiped a tear away as she passed the tea, then said, “Perhaps the children have some questions for Terry—we’ve certainly monopolised the floor.”
Megan looked up at her and asked, “How did you get so tall? Mommy never grew up like that!”
Terry looked at Megan, pointed upward and replied, “It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.” This lightened things up again, and the conversation turned to less serious matters. The Lewis’ found Terry to be more full of fun than they anticipated; she spent a good deal of the afternoon playing with the children, either in the garden or in the house. They were enjoying themselves so much they almost lost track of time. Before they knew it, time for Evening Prayer at the Cathedral had come, so Terry agreed to stay for this.
The sun was setting when Evening Prayer began. Since the large stained glass window above the altar faced the east, in the morning it was full of light; at dusk, the effect was more subdued.
In Terry’s church, both morning and evening services on Sunday was the rule; it was not as prominent in the Church of Serelia. This service was started by the Canon for those who did not care for the “smells and bells” of morning at the Cathedral. With the Bishop and most of the dignitaries gone, there was a very small adult choir there, and the organist had to tone it down quite a lot. A more humble crowd—in every sense of the word—populated the church, including much of the palace staff.
Canon Lewis gave Terry a proper introduction before his sermon, but the best treat was during the offertory. Instead of the usual organ piece, Priscilla got up and sang a solo with a soundtrack, a real novelty at the Cathedral. The song, based on Psalm 27, was one they had heard when he was in seminary in the U.K. The lyrics were centred on verse 3: “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.”
Terry instinctively raised her hands during the solo. She was the last to leave the service; her goodbyes with the Lewis’ were heartfelt. As she walked away from the Cathedral and towards the other coast and the marina, a couple walked up to her and the man said, “Can we have a word with you?”
Terry was worried until she recognised the wife, who was the Lewis’ cook. They had both been at Evening Prayer. “Why, yes.”
“Do you know a Tim Mallen, by chance?”
“Why, yes, he was my student in church organisation and administration at Bible school—he also attended my church in Barlin. Why?”
“He’s our pastor, he is,” the man replied. “I’m the head gardener here—he works at the quarry across the lake. We meet in secret at this house and that.”
“I heard everything at the Deanery,” she chimed in. “Do you think they will change?”
“Only one way to find out,” Terry said, “and that’s to sow seed. And I will be back to continue,” Terry said. But then she stopped and thought, and said, “By the way, who is your organist?”
“The Rev. Julian Lewis,” the cook responded. “The Canon’s brother. He’s never married. We’re worried about him.”
It’s impossible, Terry thought to herself as they went their ways.
George was waiting next to the gangway when Terry finally arrived at the boat. The sun had just set to the right of the port, which was across the lake. “I see you made a day of it at the Canon’s.”
“It was very nice,” she replied. “How was your time with the Bishop?”
“It was a proper business. I’m glad you spent time with him—someday, he’ll be my bishop.”