Saturday, 27 April 2013

Dogs Delight 19 The Evensong experiment

    I open an ancient oak gate and slide into an empty pew near the back.
village church, evensong, clerestory, pew
The church is stone cold.  I lean back, breathing in strong polish and reading the lists of fallen from the First World War, inscribed in creamy stone above our heads.  The church is stripped-down medieval, clean and calm and beautiful; but the flower arrangers and apostles’ wives have filled the vases with depressing plants, late rusty brown dahlias and cotoneaster. 

I count the worshippers: ten of us are here for Evensong, including two apostles and a toddler in the front pew.  He is struggling in his mother’s arms and waving a chubby hand at the cruel beak of the lectern eagle as we mouth the first hymn:

                 Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
                 There is no shadow of turning with thee;

Jacob Hopkirk plays too low for almost all of the tiny congregation; all but the apostles and the large woman who runs the teashop in Laxley who is singing in a strong bass, not much off key.

                 Thou changest not thy compassions, they fail not,
                 As thou hast been thou for ever wilt be.
                 Great is thy faithfulness
                 Great is thy faithfulness

I look past the candlelight into the dark shadows behind the altar.  There is no shadow of turning with thee.  I try to pray, but how should I pray?  My words are commonplace: ‘Please help me.  Please help me to go.’  Where can I go?  Despite my supplication, my straining after certainty and resolve, there is no revelation.  St Agnes’ remains a cold museum.  The back of my neck is hot and tingling and I pray I do not faint.

Holy people say that every action and every thought can be a prayer, so I kneel and try to project my hopelessness and lack of belonging in the press of my forehead on the cold oak of the pew.  I do not belong.  I never will belong.  I hate this place.  I hate the walls and the house and Richard and his friends and his mother and even the boys.  I screw up my eyes but cannot force out a tear.  

And from the front of the church comes a furious cry, the wail of the angry baby who is reaching out his arm to the lectern.

‘Want parrot!’ he screams.  ‘Want parrot!  Want that parrot!’ 

The vicar stands up like a wraith, mildly smiling.  He coughs twice and begins to speak to us about parking, and the importance of patience, which is one of the virtues.  

                                                                             parrot, lectern, Evensong, vicar, Evensong service
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