It was the first church I’d remember, breaking tiles and a rectangular room with mats. They sat in raggedy rows, some with tobacco stained teeth and rings in their ears. The men too. If they smoked, it was within their teeth: tiny rolled tobacco leaf that glowed and let out its acrid fumes. When the singing began, it was a shout, a wail, or spoken words via a hangover. This was a fishing colony; they had no notion of reading anything, they were here for peace. For shelter.
One monsoon after a storm had washed away half the village, they came in very quiet, sleepless. Even the babies. When the Padre spoke there was silence. The singing was quiet, ears alert. Was there a message from God? What did He say?
Ever since then, I’ve always felt that storms had their bitter and sweet edge. It took us to a hard place: here we listened, here we knew there was more than the mortal-visible. Ach. Not sweet enough. But when stashed among the bitter, we as a Human Race drop our smoke, we look for fire, for cause. For reasons.
Here we die, and stand again. We try. We falter but go on. And when we walk out that door back into the factual world, there’s Knowledge of a deep inner space where Humans face the reality that we are Spirit too. We need more than food and water and survival. No drug can doctor us there.
When I think of the word ‘Church’ I think of broken places where the Light shines thru. Or darkness shows thru our broken edge: and how we are temples of either. Not both. Of how the Light and the Dark, are constantly neighbours but One dispels the other.
I remember the Fisher colony we used to know; its faces like children’s eyes, wide with honesty. When their questions were satiated, they’d dance, as if drunk now but with the Light. And how that Light of God would spill out their ringed ears and sunburnt lips, yelling the Joy of knowing God in the Now. Storm or no, He was here.
I learnt about ‘Churches’ from these darlings of the sea, their skins burning with ozone, their eyes on fire with true love for the One who could calm any storm within, no matter the ones outside, and that’s the greatest miracle I’ve ever witnessed: the One who could calm any storm within, no matter the ones outside,
when you get that, you get Church in all Its trillion dimensions. And here we begin to heal via the Wounds of the Cross.