I went looking for Peace this morning. Just some quiet time away from the tasks at hand and the demands of daily life. Usually I head for the wonder of the woods, but with two dogs these days it tends to be more of a circus than a sanctuary. Nothing wrong with a circus, it's just that it's not Peace.
Where else can you go on a sunday morning to find some stillness?
How about a church?
Village churches are interesting places. They are full of memories and relics of the past. They have usually been built on the sites of earlier holy places, and a lot of energy has been brought to them over thousands of years. If you remain quiet and undisturbed, you can often feel a real sense of the power of the past. At least, I believe I can. I have spent a lot of time in and around village churches; as a child cajoled into attending, and as an adult hooked on campanology. I am not a religious person, but I am spiritual.
An hour in my village church this morning seemed the perfect place for some peace and solitude. In the porch of the church I found some swallows had made a nest, despite the efforts of someone to disuade them. Chicken wire had been strung up to prevent the birds finding a suitable anchor point. Where the wire had fallen, the birds had taken their opportunity, and built one precarious nest. On the floor there was a mat to catch the calling cards of these extraordinary little birds, and I was full of joy to hear and see them flying in and out. Surely they are one of nature's greatest creations, and we are so lucky to be privileged to share the world with them. It struck me that the congregation (few that we were) could have used a different entrance during the nesting season, and given the porch over to the little birds. But those with the power rarely consider such tiny expressions of the divine. Their sights are usually set elsewhere.
Behind me in the wooden pews a voice was telling a tale of how the churchyard was once in a state of 'utter disgrace'. The voice was very judgmental and so sure of their rightness. It was not their idea of a little piece of heaven to have a churchyard full of wild flowers and tall grasses - they preferred mown grass and easily discernable gravestones. The vicar was away elsewhere, and the kindly looking gentleman who took the service, did so in a traditional and practical way. I didn't know the hymns, but the Holy Communion itself was all too familiar. No brightness in the monotones, no laughter, no cheer. Only the chatter of the little birds in the porch to make me smile. No mention was made of the fun and lightness much of the nation felt yesterday in London. Only the pain and suffering of the world was brought to our attention. It was sad to me. Can we not celebrate our brilliance, our companionship and our humaness in these religious places? Does it always have to be about how sinfull and damned we are?
My mother used to go to church on sundays. She too was deeply spiritual but not particularly religious. She said she went for the Peace. I too would have liked to share that Peace in space and time, but I did not find it in the village church today.