November Church Matters

Whenever i sit down to write a church article for a magazine there is always the question as to other the content should be slanted towards the seasonal, topical or eternal. So having considered all that I’ve decided this month to write about Postman Pat, the BBC children’s TV series.

When our youngsters were small, Postman Pat was a regular favourite TV watching experience. My wife Pam and I would often sit and watch the programme with them, getting quite familiar with the characters of Pat and his faithful black and white sidekick Jess the cat (and even as I type away I find that in my head I’m singing along with “Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his Black and White Cat…”). They had such adventures trying to get the mail through to the outer lying areas of the village of Greendale, with early episode titles such as “Postman Pat’s Windy Day,” “Postman Pat’s Foggy Day,” “Postman Pat’s Difficult Day,” and “Postman Pat’s Tractor Express.” And then of course there were the other characters – Mrs Goggins the postmistress, Alf Thompson the farmer, Ted Glenn the handyman and the Reverend Timms.

I must admit I’ve lost track of all the adventures that Pat has had down the years, and I’m a little astonished to see that in 2016/17 the programme is now into its eighth series. It seems that the story lines might have progressed a little, as now there are episode titles such as “Postman Pat and the Zooming Zipwire.” There’s even one called “Postman Pat and the Cornish Caper” and another called “Postman Pat and the Loch Ness Monster.” Although I haven’t sat down to watch any of these episodes, it’s obvious that Pat’s mail delivery area and duties have been extended.What prompted this re-look into Postman Pat? Well, the TV series was mentioned at a recent theological presentation that I attended. The speaker was highlighting the fact that over the past 30 or so years, Postman Pat has moved with the times, going from a local village Postman, through an expanding territory into the neighbouring town of Pencaster, and then into a new spin-off series “Postman Pat Special Delivery Service” (or Postman Pat SDS” for short), complete with SDS Boat, SDS Helicopter, SDS Jeep and SDS Limousine. It seems that it’s in this last incarnation that Pat has had his more extreme adventures, I guess keeping up with the general move of TV into the quest for the more and more spectacular.

As our theological speaker spoke of this move with the times, he pointed out something that had not changed – the home of Reverend Timms. It still features a quiet sitting room with the gentle tick-tock of a clock in the background. Not much action or change there then.

At one level you could say that this is a comment on the church and its inability to move with the times. But at another level it speaks of something deeper. Wittingly or unwittingly the series producers have created an image where despite the ever-increasing changes in the world, there is something that remains constant – the quiet, dependable constant tick-tocking presence of faith and God. As for seasonal – a reminder of God being with us as we remember the fallen in the season of Remembrance. As for the topical – the presence, peace and strength of God for those who recognise him in times of global, national and personal times of anxiety and concern. As for the eternal – despite humankind’s folly, God is still there and ultimately in control.

As the Psalmist has said, “Be still and know that I am God.” Within a vastly changing and unpredictable world, God is always constant, always within reach, just like the comforting tick-tocking of a clock.

Tony Stephens