Half a dozen people got in with rucksacks, hiking boots, all set for the Roman Wall but dominated by one garrulous member of the party. He spoke loudly, at length, at speed and in German. We arrived at Bardon Mill and they all left the train. He was still at it.
As the echo of his voice faded away I thought how the most endangered species today are peace and quiet.
Go into your local pub and canned music blares out for the benefit of the staff - certainly not for the customers. Terry Waite once said: "Church services too are becoming like showbiz. I often go to a Quaker Meeting House where I can stop and think."
Everybody has to be kept happy when all we really want is to gather our thoughts. Out has gone the wonder of worship and in has come the level playing field where everyone must be jolly whether they like it or not. The popular idea of praying is like the guy on the train. If only we can get God to sing along with us, we shall get to know him better. Yet all the time God may be waiting for us to settle down and be quiet so he can get a word in himself. Praying doesn't begin with "Lord hear my prayer"but in the words of the boy Samuel - "Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening."
OPEN LETTER TO A GOOD FRIEND I am sorry I haven't seen you in your usual place at church lately.
Is something wrong? I hope it's not something I said. You once told me that, when you went to church regularly the world smelt more sweetly, your friends smiled more broadly and you set about your week's work in good spirits. Has the old spark gone out? Do let me know if I can do anything.
There have been a few changes since I saw you.
We now have a new prayer book, guitars and a woman vicar.
But take it from me, it's not as bad as you might imagine.
Here's a tip. If you can't follow the service, join in as much as you can and pretend you're enjoying it. You may find things are not so hopeless and church services could even become inspiring like you used to find them I hope you'll give it a try some time. It'll be good to see you.
I'll look out for you next Sunday, OK? FIRST OF THE FAIRS Surely the first to lead the annual fairs this year will be at St John the Baptist's, Grainger Street next Saturday and it's a big one. It's being run by a range of voluntary organisations across the city. People's Kitchen, Street Pastors, Food bank, Refugee Service, DePaul UK, they'll all be there (and more) from 1pm to 3pm. It's free admission, which includes tea, coffee and homemade cake.
DIARY DATES NEXT SATURDAY: St Mary's Monkseaton. Autumn Fair. 10am-1.30pm Heaton Methodist Church. Coffee and Book Sale.
Please send news items for CHURCH MATTERS to Francis Wood, 52 Albemarle Avenue, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 3NQ or call 0191 284 5338