Just a quick update because last night was so incredibly comical. I’ve always had the opinion that a special day such as a christening is about the service not the church or the area or even what you wear; because in my mind no church can be bad, a church is a church after all and each is beautiful and humbling in its own way. Or so I thought!
Our priest asked us to meet him at a church in the next village along where he lives as he covers the service in both areas. As he is quite elderly and doesn’t like to travel he advised that he would be better equipped to hold Gabriele’s christening at the church next to his house in the next village along which we had never been to. So last night at eight o’clock we set off for his house to discuss the christening.
Knowing only that the church was just off of the high street we stopped to ask for directions when we couldn’t see it anywhere. A kind gentleman pointed us towards a small road and said we should follow it to the top, and as we drove up into the woods the trees looked beautiful, the sun was golden and fresh in the evening and baby rabbits hopped merrily across the road into the woodland. It was beautiful, we drove across a bridge that looked out over the hills and it was so incredibly peaceful it gave me goose bumps. When we got to the top of the hill the church was like something straight out of heaven, a beautiful tall castle surrounded by the most stunning flowers, intricate brick work, tall wooden doors, and not a sound for miles other than the tweeting of the birds. It was one of them moments that take your breath away and if I’d have been standing I would have fallen to my knees and kissed the ground. Compared to our modest little church it was the castle of my dreams and totally blew us away. And I stood there like a stalking-bride wide eyed with a massive grin picturing our wedding photos outside the grand doors, each blink I took captured an image burned into my heart and mind forever as I feverishly eye-clicked away desperately trying to capture every detail.
We looked for the little house that the priest had said he lived in but couldn’t see it anywhere, so we decided to call him. The priest said he was stood outside, as were we, but again we couldn’t see him! And then we realised, there are TWO churches in the village, and we were at the wrong one! D’oh!
Well by that time I was on cloud nine and thought my God if this is what the churches are like in this village then we need to move house! So we loaded Gabriele, Millie and the bags all back into the car and set off back down the hill. The hairs on my arms were standing up as we drove past beautiful boutiques and art galleries, and eagerly I scanned every building and side street looking for our church and dreaming of the delight we would find. We drove, and drove, and drove some more but there was no church anywhere. Surely it can’t be hard to spot a church in a small village just off of the high street? It’s not as if churches are subtle buildings after all. So we pulled over to stop and rethink which roads we hadn’t yet taken, and then we saw it across the road.
Now I don’t know when situations happen like this if it is some sort of a test or judgement and quite how to react. Like when you see people go mental on the television and make a complete dramatic fool of themselves and then somebody shouts “SURPRISE!” and out come the cameras and film crew and they reveal the set-up. But, when I saw this ‘church’ which more closely resembles a derelict MOT service station from the 80′s, an offensive large square brick building surrounded by rusting iron bars and a pot-holed postage-stamp sized car park out the front for our hundred guests, my heart fell into Gabriele’s nappy. My beautiful wide open rolling hills were now a concrete jungle, and the skipping baby bunnies had suddenly been replaced with knackered road cones that a drunk had probably carried back from a pub and abandoned because it was too heavy to take all the way home. The amazing bridge through the archway of trees in the woods has been replaced with a set of traffic lights on a mini-round about; and the only way our guests would even dare think this could be our venue was the school-like crispy metal sign on a pole outside saying the churches name. I wanted to cry and eat my own head all at the same time! Whyyyyyyy??
I think this is a test, either a test of my faith or a test of my sanity. It was fate that we stopped and asked for directions and were sent into the hills to this gorgeous epiphany of religion at the breath-taking castle in the clouds. The castle of my dreams where brides come running from every corner of the globe just to have their wedding photos taken there. The castle that kicks the nappy stuffing out of every little girls fairy tale wedding day, and the castle where souls are truly blessed and guests jaws drop open and land on the immaculately manicured lawn! Mother Nature wanted Gabriele christened at this castle, Walt Disney really has nothing on this!
So with the heaviest heart I stepped out of the car into a pile of dried up leaves and crisp packets, dried like the hope that had been starved from within my soul, gasping for a drop of remorse. I prayed that when we walked around the building I would discover a meadow, a stained-glass window, or even a rose bush, but the bollards and over-looked concrete jungle greeted me with gappy teeth and peeling paintwork and I did all that I could to stop my jaw from hitting the pitted gravel underfoot.
I feel as though a much loved pet has suddenly died, I’m in mourning for the time that we shared with ‘our castle’, and imprisoned by the reality of the rusty iron bars and battered red brick-work of our fate. The church in our village is so delicate and beautiful and churchy, why on God’s earth have we been banished to this monstrosity away from home in a foreign derelict land? I must have looked as though I’d had a stroke as I tried to force my face into a smile to greet the priest, when behind my eyes and freshly whitened-teeth I was still blinking my shots of the Garden of Eden we had only just seen. The contrast was utterly shocking, soul destroying and torturous; but it is for Gabriele not us. I’m doing all I can to swallow my disappointment and be grateful for Gabriele to be given this chance to enter into religion and join the faith. And at the moment my faith is all that I have left!
I must stop thinking of the castle, like some sordid devil that tries to tempt me away, please leave my dreams and erase yourself from my mind, we can never be, it would never work out, I already have my MOT station church.