wordsout by Godfrey Rust                                                Occasional pieces for All Souls  HOME   


   

Roger Simpson's calypso

for Roger Simpson, on his departure in 1984 from All Souls, Langham Place, where he had been Director of Evangelism, going first to visit Australia before pastoring a church in Vancouver

I just flew in on an aeroplane from Sydney, New South Wales,
where I heard the most extraordinary quite amazing tales
and I come straight here cos I realise you’re probably filled with wonder
to hear the latest things that’s happenin’ in the colonies Down Under.
Well there’s been many great evangelists who made a great sacrifice
like St Paul and Billy Graham and the man who make the Pilau rice
but it’s none of these great preachers who’s the subject of my rhymes
but a man who’s not quite Wesley (though he can be Moody at times) 
        The day that Roger went to Australia 
        there were more people on their knees

        than in the day when Hudson Tayl-ia 
        went to convert the Red Chinese.

 

Well the Simpson style of preaching had the locals quite dismayed,
and praying with your nose in the carpet  just isn’t done in Adelaide
but once they got used to the accent he soon became the rage–
a sort of cross between Rupert Murdoch and Dame Edna Everage 
        The day that Roger went to Australia 
        they all said “Who is this man?!”

        and there was such a lot of paraphernalia, 
        I better tell you how it all began.

 
Now he started as an anthropologist in the Sixties’ student boom,
he was working the halls of residence going from room to room to room.
If I’d argued about evolution with Roger in his sheepskin coat
and his beard and his hair and his manic laugh, I tell you Darwin would have got my vote
        The day that Roger took the collection    
        with bleached hair and bare feet

        there were doubts about his ACCM selection–       
        there were no vicars down on
Carnaby Street.
 

Well his behaviour became quite mysterious about this time in his career,
he was working in Surrey and Sussex and Kent but kept turning up in Oxfordshire.
There could only be one reason–it was a girl that he had met
in his youthful days in Kenya, and now he was kenya yet
        The day that Roger proposed to Mushy, 
        could he do it? Would they love each other true?

        He wondered, wouldn’t she or wushy?    
        Well she would and he did and they do.

 

He had to go to a college of theology, there was no way he could dodge,
some say that it was Nottingham – well it was certainly knotting Rog –
but the days of miracles are not over and he passed in a way that’s unique
but we wonder what will happen if the bishop finds out he never did quite pass his Greek
        The day that Roger preached his first sermon    
        they were cheering in the back of the stands

        but in one quiet corner of the platform        
        there was John Stott with his head in his hands.


Now some preachers are polite but quite reserved, they won't take the bull by the horns,
and some are just inscrutable like the Reverend Andrew Cornes,
and some wear their hearts upon their sleeve and you wonder where they'll stop,
but Roger wears his on a placard on a ten-foot pole with a neon light flashing on top.
And some preachers write their material in a most original way,
and some lean unashamedly on the fashions of the day
but Roger's style is simple, both evangelical and true,
while others just use three sermon points he has just three jokes and three sermons too
        The day that Roger went to Australia    
        he left nobody in the dark

        about his legendary moral failure    
        with a parking ticket in
Hyde Park.
 

Now some people are celebrities, they have lots of parties and wives
and you can read in the Sunday papers all the details of their daily lives.
Well Mushy doesn't get in the papers but she's a celebrity all right
cos you can hear all the latest developments in a pulpit on a Sunday night. 
When Roger preached his first sermon a soap opera began
and we been followin' the Simpson family through the seven ages of man.
Now some people like to spend the evening in front of their tv
but an All Souls sermon has a much better script than Dallas or Dynasty 
        The day that Thomas got a new brother    
        it was another act in the play

        and now we hear that there's another 
        little sermon illustration on the way.

 

Though Roger liked working in London it was dreadfully comforta-bull
and the challenge of pagan England had a most emphatic pull,
so he started to go on missions where the pagan culture dwells
in the most deprived of parishes like Esher and Tunbridge Wells.
He'd been looking at styles of evangelism in his painstaking research
till he found a way to guarantee that you could pack them into any church:
you had to get all the people invitin all their friends from the neighbourhood
to lots of interesting meetings where you gave them lots of food -
        The day that Roger took his missions 
        into the supper party game

        his list of converts started expanding    
        and his waistline did exactly the same.
 

Now they say that he looked like a filmstar, though I'm really not too sure,
but more than one American visitor has mistaken him for Dudley Moore,
or you could hear a trace of Clint Eastwood in the click of a cowboy boot -
but the image was forever shattered the day he bought that awful suit... 
        The day that Simpson put on a pinstripe 
        there was no place he could hide -

        the man who once might have rivalled Paul Newman 
        looked like the man from Nationwide.

 

But now he's preached in California and he's preached in Switzerland,
he's been called to preach across the world and we'll try to understand:
they say How lovely are the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news
but they plainly ain't seen Roger in the morning in his jogging shoes.
Roger and Mushy we're going to miss you more than can be told -
it's not that you're irreplaceable, it's just that God must have broken the mould -
and the reason we laugh when you're preaching is that you make us laugh at ourselves
(and at least your longest sermon is not as long as Eric Delve's...) 
        The day that Roger went to Australia    
        it was a bad day in
London town,
        but though you know we're going to bewalia 
        it is a good day

        (do you know it is a good day...?)
        it's a good day to be upside down!


Performed at a farewell party for Roger and Mushy Simpson in someone's back garden sometime late in 1984. 

I took the photo on the right en route to a mission which Roger was leading at St Andrews University in 1982. Roger is pretending to preach at Geoff Shattock, who was the musician for the mission. This was the day on which Geoff and I first met and began our 20+ year collaboration as Shattock and Rust, which led to three outstandingly unsuccessful albums and kicked off the use of my poems in performance as respite from our songs. In the photo Geoff's wife Maria looks on.