The story of a beard...

Beards are fashionable; two priests serving culturally mixed parishes in East London have grown beards; the Bishop of London has commended them for reaching out to the culture of the majority of their parishioners, pointing out that in some cultures a beard is seen as a mark of holiness. But not every newspaper that ran the story last month explained that his original article in the Church Times was a learned discussion of the Church’s changing attitudes to beards through the ages. ‘Reach out to Muslims by growing a beard, bishop tells the clergy’ one headline ran - even though that wasn’t exactly what he said.
Like the Bishop, I also have a beard. I probably grew mine at about the time that he grew his. Unlike him I wasn’t staying in a monastery in Egypt. Aged twenty, training to be a teacher and facing a stint in an inner city school that autumn, I realised that some of my pupils would be the same age as my sister, and I was desperate not to look like their older brother.
At the bus depot where I was working as a conductor for the summer, the drivers had nicknamed another young conductor ‘Bearded Wonder’ - but I took the risk nonetheless. To their amusement, stubble appeared on my chin until one finally told me: “You want to shave that **** lot off!”
But I didn’t. Like the Bishop, I kept it – and my beard and I have stuck together through thick and thin ever since. Now we are growing old together.
Has having a beard made me wiser, holier, or done anything for community relations? To be honest, I’ve never thought about it until now. I must ask my Bishop what he thinks...