last friday i walked into the cathedral known as the basilica of st. lawrence in downtown asheville ready to spend an hour or so in quiet. it was the first day i had been there all week. and, while, i had not been in the physical building monday – thursday, i know that i had been taking some time to meditate.
you see, my brother got a new dog last week. and then he remembered that he had workshops out of town everyday and would be leaving home really early in the morning and returning quite late at night. so, he enlisted my help during the day to take the dog out and spend some time with him. of course, i did not hesitate to do this… because, what would be a more fun excuse to take long walks during a beautiful and warm spring week than to walk a cute dog?
so, church for me last week was outside, in the urban oasis of the five points neighborhood in downtown asheville. i walked with gunni (the sweet new family member) through the neighborhood, taking a different route each day. we took some drives together, and even found ourselves at a park by the french broad river one day. gunny rode with me to pick up lina a couple of times, and he curled up beside me on the sofa to nap, a few other times.
while i walked and talked with him, i also stopped and soaked in the beautiful changing of the seasons happening all around me. i thought of all of you that are on my list, and i meditated with my footsteps.
but, on friday, i found myself in the cathedral. only i was not alone. in fact, there was a service going on when i walked in. so, i took a seat in the back and settled in to observe and perhaps participate. soon i realized that this was not just any service, it was a memorial service for a member of the congregation. i wondered if it was weird for me to stay, but i decided that it wasn’t. i decided that i could stay and honor this woman’s life, while at the same time, celebrating the joy of being alive.
i did participate in the service, standing when the congregation stood, and sitting when they sat. i also decided to sing along, especially since the hymns were familiar ones from my childhood. in fact, the very last one, “how great thou art”, was incredibly touching. it was my late grandfather’s favorite hymn – and my granddad is the man who inspired me most through out my life, though he died when i was only 11.
the service lasted an hour, and at the end, as everyone began processing out, i felt full of life. full of gratitude. and a complete connectedness to myself and to the divine presence that connects us all.
so, from celebrating new life appearing in my natural surroundings on long walks for most of the week, to celebrating and remembering the life of one specific woman who i never met, i felt the simply joy of being alive; of knowing that, though life is fleeting, we have the choice to decide how we want to spend our days.
i was blessed last week to live my moments in solitude and in the presence of amazing people, including my family. but, on top of that, i had the joy of remembering that slowing down and connecting to the presence that is within me, means that i am also connecting with you.
i think i’ll leave you with some of the lyrics from the hymn i mentioned above. if you don’t use the word “god” in your life, simply think of the presence of whatever you do believe in – or not. still, i personally cannot deny the existence of some being/presence/connection that unites us all – to each other & to the world around us. i don’t use the word “god” all of the time, but the lyricist’s expression of gratitude for the world and the beauty and grandeur of life, is what touched me. the words are poetic, and a perfect summary of my week in a cathedral: the basilica and nature.
Great blog post. Good to know we can find holiness pretty much everywhere if we know where to look and most importantly, we choose it.
Thank you, dear friend, for your comment. I know you’d get this post. 🙂
Love that song. Love being part of a church. You might also. Give it a try.
Rusha, I suppose you don’t know much of my background – I have a Master’s of Divinity degree and have studied theology and been through the process to be an ordained Methodist minister. I also grew up going to church my entire life, and even worked in a church in the US for 8 years and in Sweden for 2 years. In fact, I justestopped working in a church less than a year ago. So, basically my whole life has been centered around church – and yet, I am not turning my back on it at this point in my life, I am just evolving in other ways. I affirm the positive things about being part of a church community. That has been my whole life, but right now, I am exploring and living my spirituality out in another way – including being open to all places of worship.
Thank you so much for your comment!
You’re doing the right thing, for sure. I was brought up a Baptist, married a Methodist and became one. But I could be happy in several denominations. It’s all in how you relate to God and religion in general, I suppose. I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable as you, but my faith is strong. I don’t even go every Sunday to church (but almost). Enjoyed your blog.
Another lovely post Liz. This is one of my favorite hymns. I love singing it. Good for you for bringing your loving heart into the present moment to join the service for an unknown woman (to you). And good for your brother for adopting an older dog into the family. That gets a big high-five from me! hugs, Gina
You have such depth and wisdom within you, Gina. I just love reading your words – whether they are comments or posts on your own blog. Thank you for being you. Hugs
[…] as you may know, i have been celebrating lent in my own special way – successfully and unsuccessfully. i challenged myself to 40 days of being in a cathedral, but i have not been there every day. what i have committed to, and followed through with, is some time for mediation and prayers for others every day – and i have done that successfully. but, it’s been two weeks since i stepped through the doors of the cathedral downtown. my last day there was during a memorial service for a woman i had never met. (read about it here). […]