Dodging the Pillars of Religion

A few parishioners didnt appreciate

his pluck. At all. But most of us did,

once we got over the shock and slid

our butts out of pews. I didnt hesitate.

After that hangdog year, I couldnt wait

for the Holy Spirit party. Like a kid,

I skipped as the new priest skidded

on the polished chancel, then regained his gait.

Theyve never sung in a gospel meet,

I thought, never seen someone with twenty-

five years of spinal pain jump out of a wheelchair,

sprint around the auditorium right

into the preachers arms. A cognoscente

of Michals. We didnt care.


The Michals despised us in their proud hearts

but we carried on. Instead of Latin,

isiZulu, instead of plainchant, house, in

the house of the Lord. What miserable farts

we could have judged them for not taking part,

but we were having too much fun:

Jerusalem, on Christmas Eve, come down.

How unrestrained, the order of their hearts

poo-pooed the fusty ones, as we straightened

up our ephods. How’s that for a solemn

benediction? quipped the curate with a shrug.

It was all I could do not to hug

him as I tumbled into the street. Decorum

won out; besides, he looked concerned.


Concerned at blotting a two-millennia

copy-book with a song gone viral.

He neednt have worried: All will be well,

as Julian of Norwich reminds us a

funky line-dance before the altar

isnt, rumors aside, the broad path to hell.

We havent lost our way, our spiritual

compass isnt broken, our Father

understands we cant be pious always,

doesnt He? Even monks and nuns took up

the challenge, spilling out onto monastery

courtyards From Zumba® in Melbourne suburbs

to shantytowns to beaches in Dubai,

we fell in Africas step.


Stepping out in African time, we nevertheless

surprised ourselves: Issas dewdrop world,

and yet… we clung, bonded as a Word,

an entity. We linked limbs, fire ants

acting elastically, flew as swallows

in arching murmuration, one bird,

differences suspended as we soared.

And then, sacred bread, we broke in pieces.

Now, in the brackish pond of January,

the newsletter confirms it: some found

our bold exuberance déplacé;

the expression of our joy un peu risqué

as though doctrinally it were not sound:

the Host had only just been put away.


The Host, thus put away, immobile but

not inert, till Wednesdays adoration,

was (surely?) not offended; affection,

in its proper context, is incarnate

we cannot show it otherwise. From that

monstrance window, The Unblinking Attention

alas, no specific instruction.

I persevered, scrolled through the text: In Lent,

a woven basket will be set in place

with colored paper flowers, where those

who wish to make amends can write the names

of others who have wronged them, to whom they offer grace;

by this, we hope to watch forgiveness bloom

though how long for, God only knows.


God only knows. Of course, I made that up

my personal fail, certes, is cynicism.

What kind of newbie fosters schisms?

Ill bet my own initials soon pop up

on various frail petals. A blip

on the radar, Protestantism

is difficult to shake, enthusiasm

overflows my hot Pentecostal cup.

The presbytery ladies smile but say

they couldnt clap their hands, although

the trees and rocks will praise if we dont dare.

Theyre comfortable with cassocks, mass, liturgy,

Paschal Candles, a complex affair

and whos to rule such ritual should not be so?


Such ritual in fact, I quite adore it.

Dismal classrooms swapped for stained glass windows,

incense, and medieval churches,

pilgrimages, mystic visions, a saint

on every corner. Out with Hillsong, in with quaint

refrains, Sanctus, choirboys, bellboys, statues

of the Virgin, orderly processions.

The common qualm is choosing where to sit.

Instinctively, I pick the left-hand aisle

(like this, Im on His right, or so it seems),

third row from the front, end seat,

close to any action. This way, Ill

be the first to join those flash mobs by the pulpit

that certain dull parishioners find extreme.


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