Sam's dream leaves her not a little shaken.
The closing months at J,T&H were, professionally speaking, a time of exponential growth for Santie Veenstra. Janet had the good sense not to point it out but socially Santie continued to lag. Anger sprang often to the fore, especially when she felt threatened. She had learned just enough religion in the South African Police Force to teach her to hate.
‘I don’t know how you can stand having Sam as your secretary! She’s such a cow.’
‘Oh, she’s not so bad, Santie. It’s true that we had a bad start, but she has softened and I don’t get many of those sniping remarks about us anymore.’
‘I just can’t stand people who make personal judgments and remarks in a professional setting. Whenever I look at her, she is staring at me, and I know exactly what she is thinking.’
‘Ah, a mind reader? And what do think she is thinking?’
‘You know. About us.’
‘She says nothing to me. And in any case she has become a damn good secretary. She takes a lot of the weight off my shoulders.’
‘Well okay, but why do you have to share an office? You’re her boss now!’
Janet laughed. ‘Remember how she introduced herself as Miss Starling that first day! And we insisted on calling her Miss for three months! She never tried that again on any new employees.’
‘Be careful of her, Janet. She’s bad news. She’s becoming a tad too friendly with you, for my liking.’
‘No, of course not but I’m wary of her. I don’t like those religious types. Hypocrites.’
‘You might be surprised to hear that she now pays for all her private calls.’
‘Yes, but I bet she still makes them on company time!’
‘Sam’s not all bad, Santie, and like I said she’s good at her work.’
Santie didn’t exactly storm out of the room, or slam any doors.
A family affair by Bernard Preston is a torrid novel of intrigue and betrayal and a long lost son who finds his way home to his mother and grandmother who were broken hearted when his father kidnapped him and vanished.
It's a trilogy.
You probably won't agree with many of the sentiments; Janet decides not to have her child, conceived in rape, aborted. She then chooses another woman as her soul partner.
Sam, the third woman in the triangle, is trying to reconcile her conservative Christian faith with her liking of Janet as a person.
A family affair seeks to give a different perspective in the matter.
Bernard Preston is a semi retired chiropractor, published author of six books and busy with his seventh, greenie, solar guru and lover of life. He is a layminister in the Anglican church, and also struggling with these issues; this books is his search for meaning and reality in his endeavor to avoid Christian hypocrisy.
Sam's dream means that Santie and Janet's arch critic has her theology rearranged.
Sam, on the other hand, was slowly learning enough religion to teach her to love.
It all started with a strange dream.
The parish council gathered promptly at seven on a sombre Wednesday evening. Four women and five men. The very right reverend Stan Thomas was in the chair.
All except the Mr Thomas were grim faced, knowing that a difficult hour lay ahead. He had a confident air; he rarely made mistakes of judgement, especially when it came to doctrine. He was neatly and formally attired in a dark suit, complete with dog collar. No foreboding, no dread tormented him that night. Actually he was looking forward to it. After all, he wasn’t given the title of Very Right for nothing. The clearly announced will of God must be strictly enforced in the Church. It was really quite simple.
After the formal notice of meeting, the assembled members carefully read through the only item on the agenda. Two young parish members were believed to be involved in a lesbian relationship. Both were committed members of the church.
Gill Houseman was the first to speak: ‘I think we should ask Jesus to come and meet with us tonight. I really don’t have any clear guidance should it come to a vote.’
The Rev Thomas scowled at her briefly, before saying: ‘Yes, let’s open in prayer. Dan, would you do the honours, please.’ He carefully chose an elderly hardliner.
Dan Candid bowed his head and said a simple prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, come and be with us tonight, as we gather together in your name. Bring home to us the gravity of this case, and the clear teaching of your Word. Amen.’
The others chorused their Amens.
The Rev Thomas spoke to one of the sacristans who were standing at the door. ‘Harold, please bring them in. Let’s get it over with.’ The sacristan ushered two young women in. They too were formally dressed, though their heads hung giving them a cowed look. The blonde had obviously been crying, wiping her eyes repeatedly with a damp, twisted handkerchief. Her tall dark friend briefly flashed a look of defiance at the assembled Council before dropping her head too.
‘Come and stand here before us,’ the Rev Thomas growled. After the two had assembled in front of their interrogators, he continued: ‘You have been accused of being involved in a gay relationship. Do you have anything to say?
Suddenly a figure in shining clothes stood before them. Turning to Dan Candid he said: ‘Dan, you invited me to attend this evening, and I have decided that I will indeed chair your meeting.’ To the Rev Thomas the man said: ‘May I?’ gesturing to his chair.
Reluctantly, the Rev Thomas shifted his chair, making space for the figure in shining white, saying: ‘Lord, these two women have been caught in the act of a lesbian relationship. In the Bible it says they should be excluded from the church. What do you say?’
The figure in white bent over and started to write on a pad in front of him.
A pregnant silence followed. When she could stand it no longer, Edith Serpentine nervously cleared her throat said: ‘Lord, when it was reported to your servant Paul that there was sexual immorality in the Corinthian church, of a kind that did not even exist amongst pagans, he commanded that they should have been put out of the fellowship. What do you say?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ said Samantha Starling. ‘Paul went on to say that they should be handed over to Satan, so that their sinful nature may be destroyed and their spirits saved on the day when you return to judge the world. They stoned such people in Old Testament days.’
The assembled company kept questioning the figure in shining clothes. Eventually the man in white straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone.’ Again he stooped over, continuing to write on the pad.
There followed another palpably nervous silence. Dan Candid was the first to stand up, leaving quietly. One by one the others followed him. Sam wanted to ask a question before leaving, but was too afraid. Finally even the Very Right Reverend Thomas departed without another word.
Only Jesus was left with the two young women. Straightening up, he asked them, ‘Where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, Lord,’ they replied.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ the figure in shining clothes declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’
As they left they passed Sam hanging about in the wings. She glanced hesitantly through the still open door. The figure in shining white looked up from where he was still sitting. ‘Come in my child. I was hoping you would return. Are you the only one? I thought there were nine.’
Quickly, Sam knelt before him. ‘Lord, I heard what you said to them. I am the one who has sinned,’ she murmured, weeping quietly, unable to look up at the figure in front of her.
She thought she felt a hand on her shoulder and a finger gently tracing on her forehead. She heard a voice saying, ‘I sign you with the sign of the cross. It was for sinners that I came into the world. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’
When Sam eventually looked up, she found herself alone, warmly tucked up in bed.
Sam’s disparaging remarks about the two new young lawyers in the making became a thing of the past and was gradually replaced with a genuine concern, even love in a platonic sense, for Janet. She liked Janet and she found it easy to love someone she liked. Santie, she was rather afraid of, and felt ill at ease in her presence. She certainly didn’t like Santie, and learning to love someone she disliked was still beyond her spirituality.
Christian hypocrisy, along with sin against the Holy Spirit, drew the greatest condemnation from our Lord.
Gay relationships continue to disturb orthodox Christianity, and other religions too; Sam's dream is little different to what many believers might have.
George Orwell, that great thinker of the last century once said: "Orthodoxy means not thinking - not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."
I personally confess to being still torn between my orthodox Protestant Christian roots, accepting without thinking, and the facts staring at us in the face: Heterosexual relationships, even in the Christian context, are in such disarray and orthodox Catholicism has spawned a plethora of homosexual child abuse. Are there any amongst us Christians who qualify to throw the first stone?
I, Bernard Preston, continue to pray that the Catholic Church may return to its first millennium tradition, a married priesthood, and that the Protestant Church, including myself, might repent and return to that higher place where human sexuality and faithfulness within marriage are a treasured sacred sacrament.
A Family Affair is novel, looking into these issues, hopefully from a non hypocritical stand point.
"Don't you know that your bodies are the temple of God and that the Holy Spirit dwells within you?"
1 Corinthians 3:16
It is for me a disturbing thought that in whatever we Christians do,
our thoughts, what we eat and drink, whether we exercise or not, take
holidays, all need to be unto the Lord. There should be no place in the
lives of we Temples of the Holy Spirit, not just for sexual impropriety,
but for drug addiction, alcoholism, gluttony, working ourselves to
death, or not working conscientiously, not taking proper holidays,
refusing to exercise... For this body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
and we Christians should treat it accordingly.
Eating healthily is something we should be doing to the glory of God. Perhaps, of such, will be my fifth book. Caring for the Temple.
Can any of us who have a BMI over thirty, who smoke, who drink too much
beer as I used to do, who do not take regular exercise, have any right
to throw stones at Janet and Santie? Please step forward and raise your
"Men of lofty genius, when they are doing the least work, are most active."
- Leonardo da Vinci
Book I: The Bostonians