Sunday, March 15, 2009
St John’s Cathedral - Church Bells
So I read in the paper that finally the 12 bells would be peeling this weekend at St John’s Cathedral, and I make a mental note to go and hear them and see them for myself.
Controversy has never been far away with the bells, and the bell tower; famously built then dismantled recently when it was realized - too late- that the bells will soon demolish the newly built bell-tower; with its constant vibrations. Then a woman was trapped for hours with a broken leg after she became entangled in the mess of ropes.
Sheesh, these bells need my support, and they need it now!
Driving into town, all I know is that the first service begins at 7.30am, and I am hoping that the peeling may be at this first service, otherwise it’s a 9.30am service, and we don’t’ want to stick around for that, we have friends coming to Maleny with us to help celebrate St Patrick’s Day.
I wonder if he rang bells? I know I did, dad would drag my out of bed with a grin and say 33 rings! Do it well! And he would be off somewhere, forgotten this or that, or simply preparing in his own way for the Sunday morning rush.
I would stand at the base of the simple, single bell, and pull hard with all my might on the frayed rope. With each pull I would grab the bell rope a little higher, next ring, a little higher still, until my arms were very high along the ropes. As the bell tolled, I would spring into the air, leaping what seemed feet above the ground, and calling to our black cocker spaniel dog Prince, I would encourage him to howl his hardest. With me swinging in mid-air like some child of Tarzan, and Prince sitting, howling and yowling with heart-breaking sadness, we were a sight! Yoooeeeeooww!
Anyway, I am in the city now, parking is in abundance, small groups of people shuffle their way into the Cathedral. My friend CJ is also in the city this morning, celebrating Mass at the Catholic Cathedral a few blocks away, then meeting with her book club over breakfast somewhere. I can’t believe she finds time to read books!
I sit near the front left, I want to be able to hear the sermon and see what’s going on. All the pews are solid cedar and although old and gorgeous; are very uncomfortable to sit in, so the various churches of the dioceses sewed pew cushions, all different and all related to each other in a “story”. I choose to sit on the beach and water story, and my pillow happens to be a flock of seagulls. The old women in front of me are sitting on Australian Wildflowers, to my front-left, a brilliant red Banksia. I feel a twang of regret, I should be sitting there, for my mother, and instead I am squashing seagulls.
Of such is life.
Gazing upwards, I wait, and watch, noting the fine detail of the sandstone interior. How the vaulted ceiling stays up is beyond me; and I reflect that men of math and physics built this building, and women of hunched backs and white hair, fill it with love. In the far left of my vision I can see two black grand pianos, and I hear a fine tenor voice singing and practising the hymns to be sung. A bit late to practise? We all do what we can.
The Service begins with prayers, not a hymn. The processional is made up of various women, and a few men. The priest is wearing a hair mike, to pick up his voice. So is his server, a woman who stands beside him for the entire service. The other woman remains seated almost throughout, sitting like a white-robed statue: so still I have to really stare at her to see if she is still breathing.
Me? I’m a fidgeter, can never sit still, and I cross and uncross my legs and have to keep looking around, taking details in. I mentally cross off being a priest, or at least a white-robed-statue, as a career choice. Finally, a hymn, and we are accompanied by the hidden organ way up high in the loft, not the grand piano. Feebly, we sing, or at least attempt to. SING LOUD I hear dad nudge me, and I raise my voice to what I deem as acceptable, dare I hit a wrong note. Later, the next hymn is familiar, with a few halleluiahs thrown in and so I do my best for that one too, until the organ flourishes on the last verse drown me out, and everyone else who is singing.
I glance around and we look like goldfish gasping for air, I can SEE people singing, I just can’t HEAR anything other than the organist, who is having a field day. Triumphant, sure, noisy, yep, that too. I resist a giggle.
The Peace be with you, and I turn and begin to shake the other ladies hands. Crossing the aisle, I also pump one of the only gentlemen in the congregation, he seems startled. People don’t cross the aisle here? Opps. At St Barnabas in Red Hill, you don’t sit until every hand is shaken, and held. Every hand. It goes on for 10 minutes, but that’s ok, we don’t have any other pressing issues to deal with. What’s ten minutes?
Today I have also been handed a Lent envelope in which I place my lousey $5, but I justify that I also purchased $20 of raffle tickets earlier in the week to win a blue hand-made bedspread that I pray I won’t use. I have 60 tickets! *faints. My nights are now filled with dread. What if I win it? Will it seem rude if I hand it back to be re-drawn? Do I donate it to a hospital? I can only hope my number does not come up.
The service concludes, but not before I have been crossed and blessed and had my Communion.
The best part. Body of Christ. Amen.
Slowly I make my way out of the church, shaking the priests’ hands as they line up to bid me farewell. Pity they didn’t bid me welcome, but that’s another story.
I sit in the car now to fill in 15 minutes, still ever hopeful the bells will ring as I was told, at 8.45am. Idly, I take photos of the clouds reflection in the skyscrapers. Finally, listen!
DING. DONG. DING. DONG.
And that’s it. I wait longer, hoping it’s just a rehearsal, perhaps they too are lining up their dog to howl in unison? Nope. That was it, and I drive back through the suburbs for breakfast.