Recently, I have been trying to marshal my thoughts and understand why it is that I find some churches – and church services – peaceful, spiritually calming and even beguiling, when a) key aspects of Christian doctrine – the Virgin Birth, The Trinity, The Resurrection etc. are, to me, absurd, and b) in my world view, the likelihood of the existence of God is fairly close to zero.
The only way I can explain these feelings, is the consideration that the actual buildings are frequently very old, and their use by many generations of people for community worship to a similar liturgy, with similar rites and rituals, somehow communicates itself to me over the centuries.
Some time ago I made contact with a distant cousin via a genealogical journal. She kindly sent me a book of poems by a mutual relative published in 1945. The poet’s name is Eric Chilman, and his poem Above the Market-Place seems to convey just such a feeling:
Said the church tower:
“These ant-like market folk
Have toiled within my shadow since that hour
When the dawn broke.
“They linger still,
Transfigured in the flare
Of sunset bright on Georgian pane and sill
Of the old square.
“When sunset wanes
And curfew ends the show,
Then home to farmsteads lost in printless lanes
The farm folk go.
With boom of curfew sped,
I have watched their going half a thousand years,”
The church tower said.
My dear mother – the original Mirli – has died at the age of 94. The Guardian have published an obituary of her in their Other Lives section online; you can read it here:
Mirli came to this country, travelling on her own, as a refugee from Nazi Austria just before the last war. She was, what we would call now, an asylum seeker; she was under fifteen years old, and spoke only the English she had learned at school.
Eventually I will put a fuller version of her life story on this website. Meanwhile, there is a Just Giving page in her memory to Safe Passage, a charity set up to open safe and legal routes to protection for unaccompanied child refugees, and reuniting them with family members: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/grannemarie
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs