The 12th century church looked awfully quiet considering around eighty people were supposed to be there. Sort of … shut, in fact.
“You sure this is the right place?”
“Long Crendon church, they said. This is Long Crendon.”
“Didn’t you get the proper invitation?”
“No… did you?” My son rummaged for his phone and pulled up the image of the requisite document. That explained a lot. Right village, wrong denomination. Being so familiar with the medieval church there it hadn’t even occurred to me to check…
“Just as well that we’re early…” I put the car in gear and we went in search of the Church of Our Lady of Light. My younger son, her father, had evidently not considered there might be more than one church in the village… and to be fair, although I knew there were three, I had simply made an assumption which proved to be wrong. I was still going to
wring his neck have words though.
It just goes to show how many problems are caused by unquestioned preconceptions.
I liked the name of the church; Our Lady of Light. It immediately evokes an image… and the interior of the church… this one happily full of familiar faces… was indeed full of light. We had not visited this one on our travels; it is a very modern affair, a good five hundred years younger than the later churches we are used to. I can find no information about it, I have to say; none of my usual sources are obliging. It is an unusual place… twelve sided with an altar ‘in the round’. The walls are almost entirely stained glass with a plain clerestory to flood it with light. Behind the altar a symbolic representation of the tomb of Jesus with the image of a Cup where the entrance should be. Over the door a replica of the shroud of Turin, while around the walls an old set of images depict the Stations of the Cross looking rather dark and incongruous against the bright backdrop…
My elder son shook his head in despair… we were here for the baptism after all… I put the camera away… Well, sort of. I pointed it at people instead, thinking how smart my sons were and how pretty the young mother looked… and realising I had been just her age when my eldest son was baptised. We were sitting with friends of my sons … some of whom I have known since their teens and who were now watching their own children grow. “Where do the years go?” asked one of the great-grandmothers later…
The Catholic rite of baptism is not dissimilar from the Anglican with which I am more familiar. It seems odd that so much intolerance should have raged between branches of the same faith over the years. Their father being Catholic… and there not being too many Anglican churches in rural France… my own sons had been baptised in Catholic churches. The name on the door has never mattered to me, it has always been the Light from which all faiths stream like multi-coloured ribbons that has drawn me.
The priest, in a lovely touch, recognising that many present might not share his faith or indeed subscribe to any particular belief at all, included everyone as witness to the baptism in love and respect… which surely, is how it should be. My little granddaughter, untroubled by the artificial divisions of history, politics and dogma, and surrounded by the warmth of a family gathered in love, slept peacefully through it all.