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  1. Stepping down easily through the wide arching doorway the two women passed, one before the other, out from under the searing, unforgiving sun and into the cool, dim corridor leading down to the cavernous indoor amphitheater that stretched deep into the echoing depths. The woman in front lead with the confidence of foot capable only from a seasoned practitioner, impressive as it was as the descent was quite steep and the frequent isolated steps down were much larger than usual.

    Feeling a cool, crisp breeze as they rounded a bend, the corridor opened up to the gargantuan cavern before them. Somehow completely occupied and simultaneously vacant, it flaunted an unmistakable ambience that permeated all newcomers with a profoundly unique sense of being helplessly immersed in the very heart of something, yet completely alone and left to one’s own devices. Every person in every point of the space was the center of the universe.

    The woman in the lead came to a smooth halt and turned back to the other in a silent indication of the proper location having been chosen. Opening her mouth to ask the most obvious of questions, the bewildered newcomer found herself preventatively hushed by her guide.

    “Shh,” the woman said soft and strongly, “it is time to pray now.”

    And as if on cue, an incredibly thin layer of dust was instantaneously pulsed off of their bodies and thrust into the air in every direction as the walls shuddered with the drop of the bass beat.

    The bassline throbbed through their bodies and quickly synched their heartbeats up along with the thousands of other practitioners in the underground sanctuary. As the music filled out and intense electronic instrumentation took hold of their bodily faculties, the congregation ceded themselves to their beholden and relinquished control of their will, allowing the purest light of freedom to open up within.

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  2. On Church

    By Mary Sanford

    Church. It’s usually defined by a building and a. affiliation with Christianity. Perhaps it’s none of these and yet all of these and more.

    A while back someone at my school passed on. She was not religious nor did she attend any church. But she loved, wholeheartedly, unabashedly, and without fear. She loved her students. She loved the school. She loved without judgment. Her church, if she had to define it physically, was nature and the outdoors-wind blowing through tangled birch trees and slimy seaweed on the shore.

    I belong to a physical church and I attend regularly. I don’t preach, proselytize, or convert. It’s forbidden in my religion, and even it wasn’t, when people try that stuff on me, I shut them down. Game over. It took me a very long time before I found my chosen religion, and had somebody been pushy about joining their church, adopting their religion,I would’ve run in the opposite direction.

    On days that I miss attending church, I do not worry about going to hell. Hell is here and now. It’s how you live your life. I do not worry about being the hostess with the mostest at church or not. My principle concern is to love. I know people can be highly involved in the church organization, be mega volunteers, in or outside of the church, and not be loving. Not okay. Not church.

    I found church on a train in Northwest Italy, struggling with luggage overload and having a darling retired Italian couple help me. I speak 25 words of Italian but these people loved. They gave me such peace and a great sense of protection.

    Yesterday my brand new car got stuck on the ice between the bottom of my crazy steep driveway and the edge of the icy road, and it was sliding even with the emergency brake on. I screamed for help, shaking with fear, and this neighbor who I didn’t know ran over from across the street and helped me stop my car. with a cement block. That’s church.

    I found church in Madrid on a Sunday morning at an ATM machine when an 11-year-old Roma boy tried to snatch my money. A group of Spaniards, grandmas included, offered to call the policia for me and then formed a football huddle so I could safely get out my money.

    Another time I found church in Madrid at 1 AM at my hotel when a young Slovenian woman punched her boyfriend in the nose,the front staff person had no backup help, the police came, and the young woman feared she would be deported. I jumped in and with my limited Spanish, knowing I was in way the heck over my head, helped to get everyone calmed down. When he heard about it, my friend Jeff was aghast and wondered why I even bothered to get involved. Stay out of it, he argued. It’s not your place. But how could I not? I was going to church, my church, and nothing could stop me.

    Church is everywhere. You just have to find it.

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  3. Off to church I went today, to the grounds where my soul ought to run and play. Instead, there only fraught was found, until, eventually, we all hit the ground. To my steady heart I whispered a plea, “Please, if I die, just let me be.”

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