Intimacy of the Fane
Sloughing snow off the crowns of their heads, the people enter through grand wooden doors and take their pew. The distinct smell of radiator heat wafts through the air and mingles with the incense smoldering out of a golden thurible. Light chatter floats upward parallel to the earthly scents.
The sequencing of the next hour is repetitive.
A moment seated until they rise for the start of service. And back to being seated. Until the time comes to kneel and bow their heads.
One by one people return upright and open their throats to the ceiling. And they hold the craned position with their palms clasped and spine arched.
More join with every verse, and at the final chorus the voices swell to a crescendo that rises, reverberating through the vaulted framing until the last notes fade and an echoing silence fills the room.
The sounds of worship are signals.
The proper time to recite, kneel, and forgive are all denoted by sounds. These sounds are powerful. It is the sound of people shuffling through the aisles that makes one feel supported. It is the sound of people with palms open to their neighbors that makes one feel welcome. It is the sound of people deep in prayer that makes one feel protected. It is the sound that makes one feel.
Yet it is the silence that creates a remarkable intimacy, made even more powerful when experienced in contrast to noise. In a place of worship, quiet steps forward to be heard. The silence that falls over the congregation has the ability to stop all motion. As to not wake the creaky wooden benches, no one dares move a muscle; No one wants to cast ripples in the tranquility of the holy gathering.
This silence forms a new space
- a room within –
into which each enters to be sheltered, to remember, to hope and dream; Infinite yet personal; Communal but not shared; Temporary yet eternal.
Places of worship uniquely enable the conjunction of the personal intimacy of quiet reflection; the communal intimacy of song; and the ethereal intimacy of silent prayer. In a room of prayer, intimacy knows no boundary of time nor distance as thoughts flutter to past lives, people, and memories. The physical space welcomes these intimacies, not only among the faithful but of all who enter.