Journal #17 The Cathedral and its wonders

I love my job.

I work in a cathedral; I translate and interpret, and function as a guide during the tourist season.

I am not a Christian, but no doubt do I work in someone’s place of worship, and there is something quietly comforting about that.
As I wash the pews – soap, water, tools to remove old chewed up gum – maybe left there by bored kids on a Sunday that dragged on – from even older wood, someone is lighting candles for a family they hope to see again soon. While I’m relaying interesting facts to tourists, about the spire that went missing in ’45 and how all Norwegian churches don models of ships, someone is sat quietly in mourning. As I refill the oil lamps in the candles on the altar, I think about how I’m lighting the fire that someone may find their God in today. It is a privilege to work in a place that can bring people peace.

As I find myself in this church for eight hours a day, it is easy to forget the holiness the people that visit will bring to these walls, the wooden domed ceiling, the stained glass windows of old. But for eight hours every day, I get to be a part of people’s journeys. I see them enter through the oak doors, and as the church room reveals itself, I see their reactions; as varied as the people.

Some cross themselves, some take pictures for the annual family holiday album, some just stand. Quietly. Some people enter this room that I put on my uniform and go to work in everyday, and they have to take a second to breathe before they enter.

I’m grateful to be working in this building, with its doors wide open to a bustling city, and centuries of life lived and years passed visible in the wear on the rugged stone steps.Church bells tell me when another day has passed, and on the daily I handle artefacts that have existed more than 200 years longer than I have. Everyday, I work accompanied by organ music, from more than 4000 pipes.
This building isn’t just holy because a religion says it is, its holiness lies in its history, in the people who sought refuge in its halls, in the music and the songs that have seeped through the doors and out into the city for generations. It is holy for the children who sees the aisle as too long a straight stretch not to race down, and for the older generations who made these pews their home when they were still so young that their parents braided their hair at night.

This place is holy because of the woman that comes in everyday. The woman who walks quietly in and lights four candles in a little cluster, where others normally just light one. She lights them like a family holding around each other, flickering together.

I’m not a Christian, but no doubt I’m working in a holy place.

-Andrea

Advertisements

Blue Psalms of All Hallows Eve

Today we celebrate All Hallows Eve, and for the first time I’m feeling the weight of it as more than just a holiday for other people to remember their loved ones.  This year I’m one of the one’s remembering, and that still hasn’t entirely registered, even after months have passed. Our days are so busy, our minutes too short, our steps too hurried, it’s so easy to wrangle that dark spot in your stomach into the back of your mind, to think grief is for another day. Except it rarely is, and it shouldn’t have to be.
Most days grief is for right now, most days grief has no interest in being pushed away, and on those days we should give grief a name.

I translated an All Hallow’s Eve Mass, for a service that was held today in the cathedral in the town I’m living in now. I don’t think of myself as Christian, but I’ve been working in some churches in my time, and I’ve been translating and live interpreting services in the cathedral for a little while now as work experience for my translation BA. This was a challenging one, though, just because the liturgy’s so heartfelt, the psalms so well-chosen and thus, the words just hit that little bit closer to home. It didn’t feel like work, more like hurting and healing.

The service was a beautiful one. Dignified, graceful and appreciative. It focused on relations between people, and what happens when we suddenly have to start talking about our loved ones in the past tense.
I must admit I’m still not entirely used to that part, yet.

For some, death may come expected, it may even be wanted, while for others it strikes abruptly and harshly, changing everything, taking people we cannot bear losing.
“Those who are loved will never be forgotten,” said the priest, a young woman who touched every heart in the congregation, who laid an arm of kind words around the shoulders of everyone in the church. You could see people needed to hear what she was telling them; that their emotions were valid, that grief takes many forms and that no one form is more correct than another.
Death is weird, it always has been and always will be, and we all react so differently when we encounter it.

This post is a bit jumbled, but I just wanted to share with you a paragraph from her sermon that I translated:

Those who are loved, will never be forgotten.
Many of us carry heavy burdens, we carry bereavement, loss and grief.
Today we think of those we love that are no longer with us.

We think of our community, of compassion and wonderful memories.
we are grateful for the days and the years we got to share,
for kind words, for warmth and for joy.

Many of us carry grief over everything that never came to be, 
for relations that were challenging,
for wounds that struggle to heal,
grief over what was taken too quickly,
over everything we never got to say.

We humans are so great at not saying what we think, at forgetting to remind people that they are appreciated; we often take it for granted that people know we love them.
But we also have a million tiny ways of showing that we care, and today I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all the ways the one I’m missing showed that she cared. I’ve lit candles and quietly sung songs that remind me of her. I’ve twirled her bracelet around my wrist, and I’ve consciously tried to name all the feelings that have bubbled up in my stomach, wound its way around my heart, up through my throat and that’s lingered behind my eyes. It’s been strange and a little bit scary, but it’s also brought a sense of calm.
I think I needed it.

I wasn’t prepared for today to be as heavy as it was, and I didn’t think I was going to write about it. I’m not sure what this even is, a little stream of consciousness, my mind trying to figure out what it’s feeling.
It’s been a good day, though – an important day.

I hope you all have had a good day today, too, and that you’ve had your loved ones around you.
Because those who are loved, can never be forgotten.

-Andrea

(A very Little Piece of) Winchester

Andrea Wold Johansen, B1
The Winchester Book Shop; Three floors of second-hand books to get lost in.

Andrea Wold Johansen, B2
You can’t not follow that sign, can you.

Andrea WOld Johansen, B3Andrea Wold Johansen, B4

Andrea Wold Johansen, C1
“Halls” to get lost in, behind the Winchester Cathedral.

Andrea Wold Johansen, C2

Andrea Wold Johansen, C3
The sun set on the Winchester Cathedral, an evening in early spring, is something everyone should experience at some point.

Andrea Wold Johansen, G1
St Giles Hill; where you go to escape the city.

Andrea Wold Johansen, G2

Andrea Wold Johansen, G3
Where walkways, trees and winding ivy go hand in hand.

Andrea Wold Johansen, I1
The Itchen Way, that can take you all the way to Southampton (if you’ve got good shoes and a packed lunch).

Andrea Wold Johansen, I2

Andrea Wold Johansen, S1
The Hospital of St Cross; a quiet place tucked in by the Winchester Water Meadows

Andrea Wold Johansen, S2

Andrea Wold Johansen, S3
The last functioning Alms House in England, St Cross still stands.

Andrea Wold Johansen, S4
With old hallways, halls, kitchens and wonderful gardens, and a great view of St Catherine’s Hill.

Andrea Wold Johansen, T1
Cream tea at Cafe Winchester. The best one there is.

 

-Andrea