‘This is the third band reading for Stephanie and Paul. Soon they will be a permanent part of our congregation.’
His back remained rigid in the pulpit. Thomas dipped his head in agreement. The young couple, sat at the front, seemed more interested in each other than anything he was saying. Martha knew from experience you hardly ever saw the couples after they tied the knot. When she attended the church in the early days of her marriage, there was never an empty seat. Now it was rarely full and only a few stragglers remained – Mrs Carmichael, and Mr and Mrs Stoddart being three of them. An atheist, Fred would rather have watched Chelsea play – that was his church.
‘I will now recite Psalm 5 verse 32. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.’
Bright rays split through the stained-glass window, and she peeked at Thomas through wide fingers. His expression remained impassive, as he laid his own sin to rest.
‘We will now sing “All Things Bright and Beautiful”.’
He opened his book and nodded at his organist, who began to play.
Martha didn’t need to read the words. She had memorised them since she was a child. She always loved singing hymns; especially Abide with me. It was her dad’s favourite.
She contemplated her husband – the love they shared was unheard of today. Now more couples wanted to live together than get married. When she felt Thomas’s arm linked in hers, she could move mountains. He never left her side or even thought about divorce. Even when she had a panic attack in the middle of the high street, Thomas refused to leave her. He believed in the sanctity of marriage. So did she. Society may think you can throw away your vows and go on to the next person, but she would never leave Thomas because he failed to live up to her expectations. Yes, their arguments got heated at times, but the love of the man he once was, helped keep her intact.
That was the true muscle in her marriage.