[image by mike]
I had no idea my body could hurt this much.
The space was beautiful on Saturday night – made more so by the people who came in and made it their own. We were over run by people – they were lining up out the front before it began, and we had to kick them out well after the closing time. I think we probably knew about a quarter of those who came – the rest were street walk-ins or people who came through the festival guide. Blythe’s pavement chalk was the best advertising ever.
[image by blythe]
We’ve always said that numbers don’t matter. I think the lovely thing for us was that people stayed. Some left after a couple of minutes, but overwhelmingly, people stayed for a long time – some even delayed their dinner reservations to stay longer! And they did stuff, they interacted with the spaces [seriously, on the whole, people outside the church participate far more willingly and vulnerably in spaces than people do in churches]. They made the space beautiful.
[image by mike]
But, oh my word, it was exhausting.
I think this is the space that has cost us the most, physically and emotionally. We argued more about this one [or, because we're introverts, we stewed more about this one, and frowned a lot], partly because the theme is so fraught. All of us in the team have strong, and very different, personal reactions to home – its security or fear, its presence or absence. Being able to articulate that in a way that didn’t deny another person’s story was really difficult. A number of the team work in areas where home has particular poignancy – trying to advocate for asylum seekers, or educate the community in homelessness, or help people live in their own homes with dignity – so it’s really hard to find ways to tell stories that don’t preach; that don’t assume everyone needs the same thing. Our best spaces are those that ask questions without demanding an answer; that allow nuance and untold stories. With this theme, it was all too easy to flip into universal truths about what everyone needs.
[image by mike]
If this is a place that’s safe,
if this is a time to start stripping back the layers
- to fill the cracks and clean the dirt,
not cover them up –
rip a piece of the wallpaper off
to take with you
and in its place,
write your prayer
or your longing
But if there are parts of your home
or your life
that are too hard to leave
to the glare of the world,
write or draw them onto the wall,
then take some of the wallpaper
and cover them over.
Let the wall hold the cracks
and the dirt
until you can.
I think we found it at the last minute; letting the complexity show without needing to moralise, and trusting the spaces to do what they do.
Which they did.
There was no mention of God anywhere [apart from a silent, blaspheming prayer written on the wall of a transparent paper house]. No-one would have known it was in a church building if we didn’t tell them. And i suspect no-one went away thinking about God or faith, and most certainly not thinking about needing to go to church. But i think maybe people went away feeling more human. And more and more i think that’s the best gift we can hope to offer.