As so often happened to him, to his enduring sense of inadequacy and shame, Eb entered the silence of prayer with no warmth of devotion, only relief and gratitude for an end. Another twenty minutes and he could get something to eat.

Eb knew he believed to the final core of his being in the beautiful Gospel of the Light. He loved the unfolding story of its meaning throughout the year: but, “I’m sorry,” he whispered in the silence of his heart; “I’m sorry I find it so appallingly boring. I’m sorry I can’t connect. Please forgive me.”

In the deep silence of the community at prayer, like a silver trickle through his mind drifted the words “Don’t worry about it, Eb. I understand – after all, I have to listen to him all day.” Eb didn’t know what that was, but obviously it couldn’t have been the voice of the Almighty.

The Gathering closed with a song and a final blessing from Harold, and a moment of reverent quiet hallowing the time. Then folk began to shift and stretch, murmuring quietly one to another.

Eb’s neighbour on the bench turned to greet him with a smile. “God bless you, Brother Ebenezer. I hear things are going well for you. Didn’t that Word bless your socks off this morning? A real meaty bit of teaching to get your teeth into and make your heart cry ‘Amen!’ He has the gift, right enough, does Brother Johann. Doesn’t he touch the spot for you every time?”

Eb gazed speechless for a moment into his neighbour’s unfeigned enthusiasm and honest, smiling eyes.

He wished to the roots of his soul that his religion did not cause him, above anything else, so much shame.

“There’s no-one quite like him,” he said.