Sunday, 27 February 2011

Home away from home

Off I went to Leafy Suburb Church for Evensong tonight. As I always am, I was glad I went. Leafy Suburb Church has been special in so many ways.

My first piece of liturgical music was sung there by the choir, in honour of Ambassador for Compassion. The choir let me sing with them, too, and though I'm only there about once a month I feel part of things, part of a sort of community-within-a-community. It's not the belonging, I think, that gets to me. I think it's that I emphatically don't belong and yet am still welcome that's so powerful. I can't come to most of the rehearsals, I don't live anywhere near the parish, I can almost never be there for the main events of that church, and yet what I do have to offer is accepted, openly.

When I first spoke to the vicar about writing a piece of music I was so scared, so scarred by previous experiences. You know, I don't think I'd willingly spoken to a priest for years, never mind initiating contact. The first choir rehearsal I went to, to figure out what the choir might be able to do, I was so nervous, so unsure what to expect. At the first service I went to I was uncertain and uncomfortable, so uncomfortable about participating in a Christian act of worship.

And yet all along the way I have been met with friendliness, acceptance, love. That meeting with the vicar was exactly as informal as I needed it to be; that first choir rehearsal was entirely unremarkable. That first Evensong service was uncomfortable for me but it was somehow okay that I was uncomfortable, and the vicar said "God loves us to bits" in her sermon. The first time I sang in the choir it felt like coming home, and every time I go back I come away feeling a strange lightness. It's always bittersweet, knowing I won't be back for a month or maybe more, but I am always glad I went. And occasionally, I find the same feeling at other places. There were bits of Greenbelt that were like that, and K's vicarage is, and taking Communion for the first time in so many years certainly was, and I went to a midday Eucharist at a city cathedral a few weeks ago where I nearly cried with the sense of welcome I felt. But Leafy Suburb Church was the first and I guess that makes it sort of sticky, so that every time I go back I'm reminded.

I don't think that the issues with the letting agents are going to go away and I will still be mightily pissed off if I end up having to move -- either in the next month or two, or this summer after our contract expires. But I am much-comforted tonight by a small community in an unremarkable leafy suburb which, for me, has been a model of what church can be like, and which reassures me I have another sort of home than the sort over which letting agents and their ilk can have any say or sway.

Thanks be to God.

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