St Peter's Church remains open...
There are no stars in this story, just supporting roles. Their purpose camouflaged, in this glimpse of life, the players enact their parts. There is heroism, humour, dust, nature and human life, the physical and psychological, and there is love.
This August spending some time helping to “house-keep”, I have had the privilege to observe, listen and connect with visitors to St. Peter’s Church. Off-stage the freezer is being de-frosted with great energy, in contrast to those who come in to pray, apparently seeking the peace to be found here. A few portray distress. One or two smile finding another person there, some friendly, some embarrassed. Do they think I judge them? Quite a few are tourists, silent in their entry front of stage. As I cut threads, tack and sew, “May I take a photograph?” I ask the Verger and the beautiful young woman smiles her thanks. I draw a map to find St. Barnabas for a Mum patiently shepherding bored, quick teenagers through a holiday. “I’ll keep the map until they have gone back to school, then I will have the time.” A few are disappointed at the closure of the Coffee Room. I regret I cannot supply coffee, boots or a coat. No, I do not live here. No, I do not own the building; but yes, they can have a look around. “Oh, you have never been inside Church before?” Several “regulars” want the Verger, prowling restlessly until he enters from back-stage. Their part requires a cup of tea, some food, and human contact.
All in Verger role play practical but compassionate parts, each offering succour to the needy whilst protecting the set and supporting the cast on this stage. With polishing cloth in hand, balancing on steps to replace a light bulb, preparing the Communion Table, switching on microphones, locking doors, they quietly carry out tasks to keep the show on the road.
A full-time observer will see a great cross-section of mankind entering the Church. Each with his/her own script, but all accepting the invitation of the open doors. “No one who comes to me will I ever reject.” My reason for being there!
But there are characters who challenge the invitation. The lads who munch their way through “Macs” and then spray the area with fire extinguisher foam, exiting stage right when experiencing discovery. The lonely who interrupt those in the seats set aside for quiet and mediation, and those damaged by alcohol who on bad days sit in the wings, rambling and ranting incoherently, whilst drinking tea.
The spectators express admiration and joy at the ceilings, the architecture, and the triptych. An appreciation and enjoyment is mimed, as the spot system shines through the windows, bringing glorious colour to the floor around the font. There is peaceful ecstatic mediation in the sun before the choir. Heartfelt expression is commonly embodied here.
There is a sense of quiet expectation preceding Communion; and the reassuring ritual of the Table are curtained by the joyful and supportive exchange of the cast before spilling out into the bright sunny day. The reality so many live through is briefly enhanced by the banquet. The pain, evil and sickness in society, contrasting with the apparent sense of belonging, receiving of strength and encouragement in the Remembrance.
My attendance is gratefully paid for by stitching fabric for the set before I move on as directed.