We lived in a church, our second flat in Scotland, at 69 Kent. It was a weird sensation to walk in and see a modern flat inside of a very old building. Sandstone, brick, stained glass from somewhere back in the mid-1800′s. Plaster angels still sang silent notes from above the double doors. Two bed, two baths, a mezzanine with open beams and brick, and very long, tall windows. Even a bit of colored glass.
It was gorgeous, but it was the flat where we had The Worst Boiler and Tech Boy fell down the iced front steps, and where we had to wedge a folded step-stool under the oven door so it would stay closed, so I don’t necessarily have happy memories of it. I also felt conflicted that people didn’t use it as a church anymore.
“Ah, well, they deconsecrated it back in the nineties,” the letting agent told us conversationally, as he showed us the stained glass in the lobby on the way to the ground floor flat.
“And how did they do that?” I asked.
He scratched his sideburns and looked a little shifty, caught out by my unexpected curiosity. “Er, uh, they took that bit off the top, you know. The cross. And that was it.”
I didn’t say so, but no, that wasn’t “it,” not by a long shot. A little Googling uncovered hints at ritual, ceremony. When the meeting place of any faith is no longer needed, there’s a service, lots of prayers, a few, quiet words marking the lives and spirits of a place where something once happened, which will no longer. It was the house of God, a tent of meeting, and with God moved out, it will be just a house — of people, bustling in and out, shouting for someone not to forget their keys, swearing at the neighbor who was meant to salt the steps – regular people, doing the daily business of living, with maybe a bit of room inside for God – but no longer will these be Divinity’s roof and walls.
Even moving out of a regular house isn’t as simple as our letting agent suggested. “That was it” is hardly phrase enough to contain the last, loving look at a place where once lived your heart, before you close the door for good.