St Michael and All Saints will always be home for me. It was my first church, the church where I grew up, the church where I grew in God. It was the church where I was confirmed at Candlemas, where I sank into my first Holy Week, where I climbed the mountain to all the great Feasts of the Church. It was the church where I was one of the first women to serve at the altar and what a privilege that was, and still is. It was the church where I learned to laugh at religion, and laugh and laugh. It was the church where I first made my Confession and was forgiven and laughed and cried.
Whenever I go back it is like going home. The pews may be hard but they are just the right height for me to sit comfortably. On a good day I can even kneel which I can’t do anywhere else these days. But there is something about the smell of Spiky Mike’s that gets me every time. It is the smell of stones soaked in incense and candles and prayer. And as I dip my fingers in that little glass bowl at the door to make the sign of the cross, I know I’ve come home. I’ve come home and it will be easy to get into that place where you can worship God in comfort and ease. I won’t need to sit and check everything out. I won’t be surprised by anything: be it sudden prayer or unusual hymns. I know how the service will go and it does. I know the Easter hymns will be the same Easter hymns we had when I was there fifteen years ago. I can relax and let go and let God.
On Sunday I was on holiday for my post-Easter breakdown. I’d had a week of reading and relaxing and tidying and pottering. All week I had been wondering where I’d go to church. Go home. Go home. But its a fifty mile round trip. Go home. So I did. And they were all there, those familiar faces, older now with more grey hair. And new ones too, people I didn’t know. People doing the jobs I used to do. I used to read, and do the intercessions and serve at that altar, you know. I’ve preached from that pulpit, you know, and some left and sat outside because I am a woman. I’ve celebrated the mass at that altar, you know. And some stayed away and the thunder cracked and we laughed nervously and I looked out at all those affirming faces and knew it was going to be all right. This is home for me. It is not perfect. It sometimes makes me angry. Sometimes I wish it would modernise a little. Just a little. But home is like that. Home isn’t always perfect.
Spiky Mike’s are getting a new priest soon. Fr Martin will learn to love the sights, and smells and the people just as I do. They were all talking about him on Sunday. What will he be like? Will he want to make changes? Will he love us? And then the conversation quickly changed to the Bishop’s throne and who will climb up to dress it for Fr Martin’s Institution because that’s what Spiky Mike’s think they do best. They make liturgy happen and they want it to be the best for God. (The Bishop’s throne came from a skip outside the King’s Theatre, by the way!)
So I went home. And it is good that home is there for me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’d change a few things if I could. But maybe its just as well I can’t.