I recently heard the President of the United States say that black men had a special relationship with their barber. My immediate reaction was to think if a white president had said the same he would have been pilloried. However, it set me thinking. In my area if I want my hair cut I can spend five pounds and have it done speedily but in silence by a Bengali boy who speaks little English and speaks little anyway. I can for ten pounds spend twenty minutes talking football, politics and religion with another barber. We are the same denomination, similar age and both love football.
There is something special about a hair cut and a good natter with someone on the same wave length. Women know this already. I began to think of another situation of confidentiality.
Before I joined a mainstream denomination I had a problem with confession. Now it is part of my regular churchgoing. The sacrament of confession is so often portrayed in comedy sketches that its true blessing is rarely communicated. It can however be not just a chance to get things off one’s chest but it can be a time of real ministry with a priest who has the right gifts. The last time I took confession the priest having heard my sins then gave me strategies to deal with them, words of comfort and then told me that he himself was just a humble human being. He left me feeling exultant. He did something that priests do less and less these days; he ministered to me. RS Thomas, the poet and Anglican priest, said that too often these days priests are managers and not priests.
It was a special time and it didn’t cost me ten quid either!!