I mentioned in my earlier entry that I’ve seldom felt the sacred inside a building. It’s happened a few times, usually around Christmas. The church mom attends, and where my name still is registered as a member, is a beautiful, old building. It has the stone, the windows, the organ, everything you’d expect from a sanctuary. But, it doesn’t “move” me.
I’ve never visited one of the old European Cathedrals. And I’ll be honest. If I did, I’m not sure if my sense of wonder would be spiritual or sheer amazement over what determined craftsmen could create with T square, plumb line, hammers, chisels, and time.
Perhaps it’s because I’m not the most social person on the planet. And neither side of my family is exactly noted for reaching out socially. And I think I got a double dose from both sides. (rueful shrug) More than a few of my relatives have not only marched to a different drummer, they never made it to the parade.
The church started as the people. Where ever the believers were, that was where the church could be found. Buildings were a place of shelter, a place where the church could meet, share food and fellowship. Somehow the definition changed. The church became the building and being physically present proved you were a loyal member. And somehow, not reliably planting your seat in a pew at the defined times proved that you weren’t.
There was a period starting during the great, near forced conversions in Western Europe, up until the early 1800’s in some places where you came to church or paid a fine, or worse. It was the late 1600’s before a head of the house could hold a prayer meeting in his own house without the local sheriff making an appearance. And teachings that were meant to liberate the soul became tools to enslave not only our bodies, but our spirits.
The Puritans in New England certainly required attendance. You came or you better have a good reason for not being there. It wasn’t enough to believe, you had to be seen to believe. And Who was it Who said that it was better to pray in private than on the street corners?
I was raised too good a Protestant to believe that any mortal can stand between my soul and the source of Creation. And perhaps, inadvertently, too good a heretic to believe that there is only one path to that source. And perhaps, I find as much joy in the journey as in the destination. May be life is a series of destinations. You no sooner reach one that you realize it's a way station and there's another one just over the horizon.
Tonight is the eve of Lughnasa. The beginning of Celtic Autumn. The season of the harvest, of gathering in, of preparation for the dark time of the year. But, even as the days grow shorter and the time of cold and want comes for many, we know the light will return. It’s a promise, you see.