Friday, 3 April 2015

Vicar's Sofa: Whole Body Religion

If someone had said the phrase to me 'Whole Body Religion' a few years ago, firstly I would have been like 'Religion?! *shudder*' and secondly I would have been like 'Sounds like you've been to crazy town. Population – a bunch of religious nutcases'. I was very generous, you see.

Yet now I am writing this post on the back of a week of what I can really only describe as a 'whole body religious experience'. I don't know how else you would describe launching yourself onto the floor dressed in bright red robes with two likewise dressed companions in what my husband described as 'seamless ninja style'. But lest you think I really have become an inhabitant of crazy town, let me explain.
This week I've been celebrating Easter at the church where I have been on placement all year. For those not inducted into the weirdness of the Church of England, you get a whole range of different styles of service depending on where you go. This can be quite fun, one occasionally likes to indulge in a little church shopping, but can also be a tad confusing for the uninitiated like the poor American tourists I spoke through these peculiarities at the Cathedral a couple of weeks ago.
This particular church I've been at has more in common with a catholic church in its style and draws on services from way back yonder which can be a bit odd and hard to get your head round but can also can be pretty cool. There is a sense of continuity with it all and a sense of connectedness to the past which in our frantic age is actually really life affirming. You also smell really nice when you leave because they are crazy for the incense.
But what I have loved about this week so far has been the powerful effect of the services based not just on what someone has said but on what I have seen and felt. Whether that is the changing colours of the robes, or the altars being stripped of all their candles, or the church being plunged into darkness as thick as the night.
This is quite exciting really because it means it is open to anyone even if you have previously considered such things to be the reserve of the residents of crazy town. You may get a bit lost sometimes and perpetually worry that someone is going to tell you off for getting it wrong *ahem, my constant fear* but the pay off for diving in and really experiencing something new is vast.
Because what I have discovered about these strange old services is that they connect somehow to something deeply recognizable and ordinary. This I am putting down to the fact that it connects to human things by virtue of it connecting powerfully to your body. You feel the cold underneath your feet (or your whole body in my case!), you touch and you see and it somehow connects to who you are now, a living, breathing human being with all your weaknesses and triumphs. It's less 'pie in the sky when you die' and more 'gosh, this life I am living is terrifying and wonderful and overwhelming and more than I can handle, it's nice to take a minute, let it all sink in and consider it in a new way.'
So I don't know, perhaps I am still eligible to be a resident of crazy town after today but perhaps not. Perhaps it's all just a bit more ordinary that I first thought in the most wonderful way. Perhaps I might do a bit more of this 'Whole Body Religion' thing.

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