In which Ruth ponders going home

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.

StM high altar

11 thoughts on “In which Ruth ponders going home

  1. Seeing as it’s where she attended for most of her life, it’s where we had my great auntie’s funeral, early 2004 IIRC. Small wonder I have a slight affection for the place, even from a remote connection. Guess that was my second brush with Piskie-dom.

  2. I was a server there between 1973 and 1977 before I went to London. But home for me has to be All Saints, St Andrews between 1967 and 1971 when I was a student. Serving low mass at some unearthly hour of a winter morning for Canon Mac……well, just sublime.

  3. Sometimes things just don’t stack. During the incumbency of Canon Ernest Brady and Father Gordon Reid ( 1972 – 1984 ) at St Michael & All Saints Edinburgh, I was a server. After David Giles left as head server I took over in that role. I did not stay at the Church for long after the arrival of Emsley Nimmo. According to Crockfords you were born in 1956. Teens for you therefore ceased in 1976. I have absolutely no recollection of your presence in the congregation during the incumbency of Fathers Brady or Reid, you were not there. I have checked with others contemporaries. Father Sotnikov, who lived below my cousin Lizzie in Gladstone Terrace, was the Orthodox priest who first used the Convent Chapel behind the church and then moved to the Requiem Chapel after the Convent was sold. John Maitland Mhoir did succeed him in 1983 . I remember only too well the problems that we had with him during the vacancy after Gordon moved to Inverness. The Bishops Throne did not come from a skip outside the Kings Theatre. The throne was made by Father Brady, so that it could be stored behind the high altar when not in use. I fear Ruth that you should remember that some of us have memories. It may be that you did appear at St Michaels & all Saints in 1985, after I had left but by then you were nearly 30 and you were certainly never there before that time.

    • When I said I grew up in St Mike’s, Andrew, I meant ‘as I grew up in Christ’. Regular readers of my blog will know I didn’t start going to church until I was about 27. I did indeed grow up at St Michael & All Saints, and for that I give thanks to God.

      Fr Emsley was the priest who prepared me for Confirmation. It was Fr Emsley who told me the Bishop’s Throne had come from a skip outside the King’s Theatre. Perhaps he was referring to the drapes now used?

  4. The Gold , rather fru fru drapes were made from material that came from the curtain shop in Lothian Road, there was a Tabernacle Veil to match but no altar frontal in the same Gold. Emsley Nimmo would not have a clue what came from St Michaels or All Saints or from the Convent Chapel or the workshop of Canon Brady. A few of us still breathing do.

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