Drobne chrapanie pod krzesłem
Święta rodzina Padre
Pod masztami Reginy
Faith Works Miracles – Churches other than the norm
Light Snoring Under the Pews
We are sitting amongst 25 other people in a bright chapel with faded blue carpet on the floor. We are listening to a short sermon about a drama occurring on Haiti. The silence between pauses in the sermon is broken by loud snoring coming from under one of the pews. Mr T’s dog, Ordey is sleeping there happily. On the other side of the aisle is another big brown dog, also sleeping. I wonder how during a church service comprising of 80% hymn singing, it is possible for him to sleep. Our singing is also interrupted by loud gurgling sounds coming from a gentleman in a wheelchair adjacent.
In this small congregation incorporating disabled people and dogs, there are also former prisoners and a Pakistani lady with a 5 year old boy who is accompanying our singing by constantly banging like crazy on a tambourine. This is the Baptist church in North Melbourne, home for an assortment of people, and one chicken scratching in the garden.
Holy Family of the Padre
Our friend, who leads the service, stands at a beautiful wooden altar. His 3 daughters are very proud of him, I am sure. He is not only a minister in the Uniting Church but also a Padre for Victorian soldiers. In the church kids always run around. On the right in our choir, stand colourfully dressed Somalian women who are also singing the hymns.
This church is “uniting” for real. It allows people of different backgrounds and beliefs to come together for baptisms, marriages and joint participation in God’s love.
The minister’s wife provides support for us with all the lyrics for prayers and songs projected up on a screen. We pray here a lot , and also sing a little. The church is similar to our older Polish churches. After the service we all move to the church hall next door for a cup of tea, cookies and a group chat.
The minister is a very warm man who loves to post photos of his garden and sights from his morning walks on Facebook. He has just retired but we hope he will help with one more service for us in Poland.
We are sitting in an inactive Catholic church building. Angels are looking at us from the ceiling above, and Jesus is standing in the corner. Solid wooden pews, almost like thrones are creaking under the weight of hundreds of sitting bodies.
The altar has been moved back a bit to create some space where an Indian woman with long black hair almost down to her knees is standing, wearing faded denim jeans and an almost too big, saggy pink sweater. Behind her, a boy with a guitar in his hand starts to strum and the air is shattered by her hypnotic voice issuing a powerful Hindu “Om”. This mantra chant, whatever it is about, makes an incredible impression in this place.
She conducts us by the movement of her arms and wrists as she paints in the air in front of her the sounds emanating from her throat. The sounds and words that create this hypnotic wailing crush the darkness and penetrate the farthest corners of this beautiful church.
How do we elevate ourselves to the same place and contribute our part to this performance?
Swaying the Men
I have always been fascinated by Judaism. Even now there is still somewhere on the internet an essay I wrote about Jewish people in my state.
I cover my head with a scarf and take the hand of the honourable gentleman with the big broad brimmed hat. Mr C agreed to go with me to the opening ceremony of the Sukkot festival. I know little of Jewish culture, other than some theory from Polish books, as today there is no Jewish culture left in Poland at all.
Melbourne however, is a different story. When driving by the beach with L., sometimes we pass boys wearing skullcaps and long side locks, who are coming out of a synagogue. Now, I join a group of other women entering a synagogue in the centre of an Australian city. None of the women have their hair covered, only me – so much for the theory? At the back of the synagogue is a big table full of food.
We came here to light a candle and say a prayer. They ask me to cover my eyes – I do. They then ask me to leave – and I move away. After a few minutes alone, we join a group of men swaying to the rhythm of their prayers. Yad seems to fly from their subsequent verses.
So, how was the Sukkot festival in Melbourne? I was there but I still don’t really know. Theory again failed me , and my reason deceived. After 20 minutes the service is over and we leave the congregation to have their dinner in their own Jewish circle.
Under Regina’s Mast
The sun is shining and burning the back of our necks. The wind is moving colourful flags above our heads and signalling all boats in the port of Williamstown that there is a special celebration here today. I hold L.’s guitar while Father T. leads a mass in Polish with the aid of his “small priest” (as he calls it) – the suitcase with all of the necessary tools for a field mass. Whilst there are only a few of us, we still fill all possible standing space on board. We are praying for Mr G. who is sailing solo around the globe. He has had to stop for a few weeks in this port for reasons beyond his control. He has invited L. to play some sea shanties on his yacht – so she does not forget the ocean whilst she is in port.
So we stand together on board, but instead of the requested shanties we are singing “dear Lord” songs. However, we did manage to get to sing some songs of pilgrimage which L. managed to dredge from his memory just before the mass started. Instead of preaching a sermon Father T. concluded the mass with a sailor’s prayer.
In your warm and safe houses, please pray for Mr G. To have a safe and successful voyage back home to Szczecin, without worry for the condition of his yacht, food stocks or fresh water, and for good sailing conditions along the way (especially around Cape Horn).
Check on Facebook where is Captain>
Does faith know churches?
Here in Australia, we participate and sing in differnet churches, sometimes worship in the wind, and with snoring. The churches we have been in have had a mixture of festivals, rituals, diversity and joy (including a bar and dancing party in the church). Churches in Australia conceal a lot, but spiritual life is growing within them, and is also spreading far beyond.
Here, I suspect, there are probably few believers, but there is a lot of faith.