Sunday, 13 February 2011

Where do You Think You Are?

Jennospot 15  Where do You Think You Are?

There’s a noice church in Widdlin’ton, made outta flint stones wiv a roof covered in lead. It used ter ‘ave a wevvercock up on the steeple, but that got blown down in a storm jus’ before the war an’ ain’t never been mended since. They put up a cross instead ter keep the rain out. Oi don’t go ter church mesself, but Peter does, or rather, ‘is ‘oly aunt makes ‘im go. Still, ‘ee were used ter that at the convent orphanage. Even so, the first toime ‘ee went ter the church in Widdlin’ton, ‘ee were a bit at sea. This is ‘ow ‘ee described it:

We went into the church through a small porch. A few other churchgoers were beginning to straggle in.
I slowed down, looking for the holy water stoup.
‘Come along now, don't dawdle, I've got things to get ready,’ said my aunt. ‘What are you looking for?’
‘Where's the basin for the holy water?’
‘We don't do that here,’ she replied irritably grabbing me by the arm to hurry me along.
At the centre aisle, she paused a moment to face the altar and nodded her head. I bent one knee to genuflect as the nuns had taught me. She pulled me upright roughly, looking around nervously to see if I had been observed. She whispered harshly, as though I was supposed to know: ‘We don't do that here: this is a village church!’
We continued on across the nave to the south aisle at the front end of which was the organ. I looked around in vain for the confessional. ‘Where's the confessional?’ I whispered.
My aunt stopped dead in her tracks and glared down at me. ‘Where do you think you are?’ she hissed, ‘Rome? I told you, this is an Anglican church. We don't have one here! Now be quiet and behave yourself.’
 She led me to a pew at the very front, the end of which was partly blocked by a column. There was just enough room between the column and the front of the pew for a thin person to squeeze through.
 ‘That's my seat there, when I'm not at the organ. You sit here, next to me,’ she commanded, handing me a hymn book and a prayer book. ‘Keep quiet and don't fidget.’ She then went over to the organ on my immediate right and unlocked the doors enclosing the keyboard cover.  She slid them to each side and began to shuffle through some books and sheet music inside.
I looked around with interest, but from my place at the front by the column, I couldn't see much of the main body of the church.  In fact, I couldn't see much of anything. The view ahead was blocked by a massive stone screen pierced only by an archway in the centre and an arched opening on either side. Three stone steps led up to the centre archway. I only hoped that from here I might be able to see Winnie when she came in with the choir.
Behind me, the church was gradually filling with people. They were mostly women: the men were at the war. There was nobody I recognized. This was hardly surprising as this was only my fourth day here. Some of the people were exchanging whispers. One or two were praying. This reminded me that I had promised Mrs Rumble to say a prayer.
I got down on my knees, feeling rather self-conscious. I was glad of the column, which hid me from some of those present. I put my hands together and closed my eyes. What should I say?
It suddenly dawned on me that I didn't really have to say anything. God knows everything and He already knew what I wanted to say.
In a flash of understanding, I suddenly felt myself united with everything that existed. There were no barriers. For the first time, I really understood what people mean when they say that God is loving and good. I got up off my knees and, without opening my eyes, sat back in the pew to savour the moment.
My aunt slid on to the bench beside me. I barely noticed her. I kept my eyes shut. She shook me. ‘Wake up!’ she hissed. ‘And wipe that smug-looking smile off your face. This is God's House, not a dormitory!’

(Gang Territory chapter 8)

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