There was quite a long time between the building starting to hum, and my realising what it was.  Even longer before I chose to break the spell and find the source of the drumming.

What I experienced in the mean time was an extraordinary freedom.

This is fundamentally my trouble — with life, with church, with who it is I am called to be as a priest:  I think that York Minster is of an appropriate scale.

And that is just not realistic.

But it is glorious for time of standing there, still, while the whole nave hums.

I feel endlessly frustrated by the ways we domesticate God.

Yes:  I can sense the presence of Jesus in a child’s laugh, or a meal shared.  But when I do, those things become bigger — rather than God scaling down to size.

The reality of God is too intricate, beautiful, complex, vast to be held on a domestic scale.   I need something less manageable, less predictable.

Thus the resonance of the cry across the plains, the cry across the nave, the hollow sound of voice-meets-wind echoing through the stones.

But I long for that sense of vast freedom to be embodied, realised, expressed.

When I finally broke from the blazing cross, and left the nave for the transept I could tell the drum was near.  And oddly, the nearer I got, the smaller it sounded.

All that sound was in fact the result of two men, sitting amidst a clutter of instruments:  large drums and flutes, grand piano and sound board.  They were playing for —


a group of people dancing.

a group of people preparing to dance.

a group of people doing T’ai chi?

a group of people embodying prayer, freedom, longing, peace, joy.

I had never seen anything like it.

It was most like T’ai chi.  But they were dancers.  I say ‘they’.  In fact, I stood watching only one woman, whose every movement was un-self-conscious beauty.

I later learned that what I was watching was their warm up.  There would be a more choreographed performance later on.  With costumes, I suspect.  And it would have been good to see the leader looking less odd.  But I just ignored him, and watched the embodied elegance of woman in front — flowing through ballet-meets-martial-arts-meets-prayer.

I cannot explain it.

The rhythm, the repetitiveness, the stretching and flow and shift of tempo — they spoke most clearly of prayer.

I had been thinking (amidst the wildness; against the memory of more common domestication.  amidst the flashing of cameras and the crashing of scaffolding.) — what we do to God is terrible.   How can we learn to express God’s freedom? order? beauty?  grace?

And then, there she was.

being all that I wish the church could be.

But I can’t create that for you here. Maybe you’ve seen her?

What I saw today was something called Moving Visions —  part of Rambert’s cathedral dance research.  But don’t follow the link, because it won’t show you.  It will look like other dance performances you’ve seen; or worse, stir your prejudices against liturgical dance.  And that’s not what it was at all.  (though if you do look, the one I couldn’t stop watching is the one who flies.  the one who was utterly grounded.)

I’m glad I got lost on the ring-road and that I fell into the minster’s pull.

I’m glad I fought through the crowds at the door and the terrible ticket desk that tries as hard as it can to tell you that you are a tourist, and that God will be back on Sunday.

I’m glad that the building knows otherwise, and the drummers, and the dance.

But I still don’t know how to do it here.

6 thoughts on “expressed”

  1. Powerful.
    I would like to have been there.
    Things like that can’t be recreated.

    I do see what you mean, I think, about the scale and the reality of God. It is in some way related to the things I like and dislike about liturgy – though I like a wildly different set of styles for different purposes. Another “both/and”? (I must ask you sometime about your thoughts re: my current setting.)

    I could say more, but not half as well as your description above, which is beautiful and communicates the wildness well.

    He’s not a tame lion, you know…

  2. Stellar indeed, Rosemary. Reaching out towards God should stretch us, and our senses, pushing against and beyond our perceived boundaries. As free as the wind, as wild as the ocean’s waves.

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