I guess that most of my readers will be familiar with the idea that prayer can be a dangerous business.
Just how dangerous was brought home to me a few weeks before I arrived at St M’s. I’d had quite a tough day at work, and was anxious about a good friend who was having a specially horrible time in her life, so I decided that I’d stop off at St M’s on my way home to the dream house in the country. It seemed a good opportunity to enjoy my anonymity there, while also helping me to begin to feel at home, and to claim a much needed space with God.
The little side chapel, dedicated to St David, felt like an ideal spot…
The Sacrament is reserved there, and when I’d visited wonderful vicar to discuss my curacy we’d said Evening Prayer there too…so I went in and settled myself comfortably at a prayer desk just in front of the aumbrey.
Some time later, I was ready to go on my way, calmed and refreshed. I stood up.
Only, in standing I must have knocked the prayer-desk so that it wobbled slightly…and that was enough.
Instead of the prayerful silence I’d enjoyed there was, suddenly, a terrible clamorous noise.
A deafening noise, that so filled the air that it was almost tangible as well as all too audible…A noise to stun the living and wake the dead. A noise that paralysed both thought and deed.
My only and instinctive reaction was “I must get out of here” – so I did just that, heading for the churchyard as fast as my shaking legs could carry me.
Once out there, common sense took over. I realised that, far from pressaging a nuclear holocaust, the noise was probably “only” the intruder alarm…I realised, too, that it was a Monday, and the only person I knew in the parish, wonderful vicar, took Monday as his day off. I was sure that nobody could ignore the din…so I sat outside and waited for the rescue party to show up.
I waited, and waited, and waited.
Only, nobody came.
My carefully planned speech about being the future curate rather than a desperate criminal went unspoken.
I just sat there, in the churchyard, while the air was rent with the deafening alaram (for once, the sound was definitely worthy of that spelling). Finally, a good half hour later, I concluded that I would have to go home and feed my family…
I could (and did) email M. later to apologise and explain.
But I wondered, as I drove, what would have happened if I had been a casual visitor. Someone going through a crisis, perhaps, who had seen the open door and decided to give God and his church one more chance.
I’m sure if the trauma of the afternoon would have been enough to put them off prayer for the rest of their lives.
It took me a while to relax there, too.
And I’m hyper-careful to turn off every possible sensor, when I go into church first thing.
After all, with prayer you can never be too careful!