there's a church behind my office, between us and the river. it's a church and a monastery, actually. i never really thought much about it, assuming it was One of Theirs - not to be rude, but monasteries and cloisters seem more strongly affiliated with the Catholic church. since i don't observe Mass, and the building looks rather plain from the outside, i didn't have an interest in seeing the inside.
around Christmas time, tho, i read an article about one of our bishops, Thomas Shaw. yes, the Episcopalian Church has bishops. this surprised my best friend when i mentioned it; in an odd sort of synchronicity, her girlfriend and i said at more or less the same time that the Episcopal Church is sort of Catholic Lite. there are, in fact, huge theological differences, but in terms of structure, it has similarities, and calling it Catholic Lite was a quick shorthand.
anyway, i didn't really mean to get into a discussion of theological precepts. what i wanted to say was that i found the article fascinating; Shaw is a very interesting person. he's been tagged as the 'quiet bishop' because he doesn't go in for a lot of the visual trappings, and generally pursues his interests in a restrained way. he decided to toss that recently, in order to make a statement at a recent protest assembly, and showed up in the purple robe and pointy hat. oh, he certainly made a point - got a lot of local press coverage.
Shaw also happens to live in the monastery behind my office. and - he practices Buddhist meditation several times a day. he says that the two approaches overlap and complement each other, for him. the image of a quiet, cloistered man quietly sitting in lotus and chanting in his cell is really appealing to me, on so many levels. i love that this man has chosen to live a step apart, and yet is so open minded and inclusive in his beliefs and actions. it especially clicks for me, someone who is catholic in her interests and beliefs.
reading this article, i got the urge to see what the church was like. it's open to the public, for prayer and for services. i was talking to B last week (he looks right out at the building from his desk, lucky man) and asked if he wanted to walk over there at some point. he agreed, agreeable sort that he is. he might not have, had he been able to predict that i'd drag him out there on a rainy, snowy day.
it was an especially grey day a few weeks ago, the kind where all you want to do is nap. rather than nap, we decided to play hooky. honestly, it did feel like cutting class. we went for coffee first, with the sleet blowing sideways and getting in our ears. B and i almost headed right back to the office, but it had let up a bit by the time we were headed back, so we went to the church.
we almost turned back when we got to the door. i'm not sure why, but it felt odd to be standing in front of the oversized wooden doors, heavy and serious, hinges held in place by oversized nails with hammered heads. it was almost as if we needed permission to go in. i stood there reading the sign with the hours, then realized that B was just standing there too. 'shall we go in?' 'erm... it feels sort of...' 'mm. oh, let's go in.'
it was the perfect sort of day to explore. the rain pattered down on the vaulted ceiling, and just enough light came in to halo the figures in the stained glass windows. there was a wrought iron gate separating the public section from the monastery section (or at least i figure that's how it works; perhaps they're open for services), and a single light on the spare, elegant altar. it reminded me so much of European chapels - clean stone work, minimal ornamentation, and a feeling of serenity down to the core of the stones. we explored, quietly, sat for a few minutes, lit candles, and then nodded to each other and headed out.
i felt refreshed for having been there, and startled when i stepped back out Into The World. i want to bring my mother to see this place, because i think she'll get it and appreciate it as much as i do. and i think this may be the place i go now, when i need some reflective quiet time.