“I couldn’t take communion from you!”

I thought it might be fun to start writing some #throwbackThursday blog posts with some stories from my past. This one takes place during my curacy at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Inverness sometime between 2000 and 2003.

Standing outside St Andrew’s Cathedral around the time that this story took place

Our deacon used to take home communion to a number of people who were housebound or found it difficult to attend church every week. Among his home visits was an elderly lady in the Isobel Fraser residential home; let’s call her Mrs Macgregor. Sadly, our deacon’s family had a major crisis and so I volunteered to take on his visiting commitments including Mrs Macgregor.

I turned up at the residential home at the scheduled time, wandered into the lounge, introduced myself to one of the staff members, explained I was from the cathedral and had brought home communion for Mrs Macgregor.

“That’s fine,” said the care assistant. “We’ll just wheel her through to her room. She normally has communion there when the other man visits.”

The care assistant turned to Mrs Macgregor, “Come on Mrs Macgregor, we’ll get you through to your room, there’s someone from the cathedral here to see you.”

I followed the wheelchair down the corridor, watched Mrs Macgregor transfer to her wing-backed chair and then said goodbye and thanks to the care assistant as she closed the door behind her.

“Hello,” I said quite loudly as Mrs Macgregor appeared to be a little hard of hearing. “I’m Gareth. I’m a priest at St Andrew’s Cathedral.”

“Oh, the Cathedral?” she said. “I don’t think I’ve met you before.”

I then explained briefly that her usual visitor wasn’t able to attend today as he was attending to a family emergency and so I was standing in for him. I’m sure I also must have asked her how she was doing and how her day had been.

“I’ve brought you communion,” I said loudly.



“Oh no,” said Mrs Macgregor quite decisively and shaking her head. “I couldn’t take communion from you.”

There was an awkward silence as I took this in.

I took a deep breath.

“You couldn’t take communion from me?” I asked, hoping for some clarity. “Do you mind me asking why?”

“BECAUSE YOU’RE A WOMAN!” she said, quite matter of fact.

This explanation somewhat took me by surprise.

“Erm… I’m not!” I said.

Not that I have anything against anyone being a woman, least of all actual women. But the fact remains: I am not one.

She squinted at me. “Are you sure?”

At this point, had this scene been filmed, I would have turned to the camera for a moment, opened and closed my mouth and then turned back to Mrs Macgregor.

“Erm… Yes. I’m quite sure. I mean, I have a beard!”

But maybe that argument doesn’t hold the same weight in a nursing home because she still declined my offer of home communion and a few minutes later, after a brief prayer, I was back in the corridor looking for a member of staff to return her to the lounge.

I returned to the cathedral and spoke with the caretaker.

“Do I look like a woman to you?” I asked in my deep bass voice and standing up to my full 6 ft 4 height.

“No… why?”

I looked away into the distance and shook my head. “Just wondered.”

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Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Former Scrum master at Safeguard Global, Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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