I should have woken, on my birthday, to a view of a Scottish loch and autumnal hillsides… perhaps even a glimpse of late-blooming heather…and a humungous Scottish breakfast. Instead, I woke to the knowledge that I could not eat all afternoon until the CT scan was done and there would be a long wait for answers ahead. Still, I was not alone and it was a glorious day.
Two days before, we had not only been allowed, but invited into a church. We had visited a stone circle for the first time in many months… even shared a cider outside a pub. It almost felt as if normality were beginning, slowly, to return. We took that as a good sign.
“Let’s go to ORC,” said my companion. ‘Our rainbow chapel’, where so many of our adventures have taken flight, is a very special place, both to us and in its own right. A tiny church, tucked away behind an avenue of old yew trees, it stands upon layer after layer of history, from the farthest and most ancient to the more modern. There is a ‘feel’ to the place that has touched everyone we have taken there but, if the visitors book is to be believed, very few people call in for a visit, in spite of the windows and medieval wall paintings.
I am not religious in the traditional sense, nor do I belong to any specific Church, but there are places where, in all simplicity and with centuries of veneration and prayer infusing the very walls, you feel close to the Divine. There is a peace in such places that heals on levels far deeper than the physical. It should not be so, for, if you believe in a god at all, you know them to be everywhere… but there are places where Divinity seems to bend close.
Our Rainbow Chapel is definitely one of these.
But, in spite of a picture outside the church of the Good Shepherd welcoming lost sheep, the door was firmly locked. It was a bit of a blow… and I was already feeling a tad on the fragile side of emotional that day. We have never before found the doors to this little church locked, no matter when we have visited, and it has always been a place of profound peace, healing and spiritual strength. The notice, not updated since the late June, stated that the church will remain closed to protect its team of cleaners, in spite of the re-opening of other churches for private prayer. There were no alternative chapels listed in the area that might be open, no acknowledgement that this tiny church has a special place in the hearts of many. Just old, bald facts and, for me on that day, an unmitigated sense of loss.
“…Thou art Everywhere, but I worship thee here:
Thou art without form, but I worship thee in these forms;
Thou needest no praise, yet I offer thee these prayers and salutations…”
On a day when the comfort of old familiar forms were what was needed, the Door was locked and there was, it seemed, no-one home. I found this incredibly sad and wondered how many, in the confusion of Covid, the losses and griefs of so many months of stolen normality, had sought the solace of these simple walls only to find the doors closed against them.
We sat instead in the churchyard, perched on a rickety bench in the sun, remembering that the last time we had sat thus, the snowdrops had been in bloom. I hope they will not bloom again before the little church can open her heart once more to those who come seeking.