Joyce Mancinelli
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As with friends, so it is with churches. You surround yourself with people, some meeting the need for conversation, some who share the same hobbies, some who become friends simply because they move in next door. This group of friends may stay constant over the years or it may change, as your interests and--often--your geography alter.

In a way it is the same with churches. As a youngster, I did not gravitate toward the Methodist chapel in which I had been baptised. (it was the closest to my house and didn't necessarily reflect my mother's beliefs!) When we moved to England I was overwhelmed by the soaring beauty of the village church, St. James. Back in the day, churches were open and I loved to go inside and sing hymns, my voice echoing in the cavernous place. The Vicar, a tolerant man, often had me as his only congregation for Evensong which we recited together in the lady chapel. My school, a village C of E establishment, had us all parade to church on high days and holy days. It was great. If you stayed on your knees long enough, it was recess by the time you got back to school and you missed maths altogether. A heady introduction to Anglicanism.

In those unenlightened days, every schoolday began with a short service, so one learned all the hymns and looked forward with dread to those days in the Sixth Form when you would have to take your turn at the lectern reading the scripture for the day.

Fast forward a few years and I became intrigued with the liturdy and pomp of the Roman Catholic church. For a while I even attended Mass daily! I loved the candles and...this was before Vatican 2...the incense, the chants in Latin, the benign countenances of the statues of the saints.

Then, while working on my thesis in Dolgellau, I gravitated toward the simple chapel where the singing was incredibly powerful--there is NOTHING like Welsh men belting out hymns!

Did I ever go for the message? To be honest...no. It was the poetry of the liturgy, the ornate ritual, the stirring music that, at different times, were the attraction. When the sermons stretched beyond 10 minutes I would daydream or leaf through the prayer book...and savour the delights of such canons as the forbidden bounds of consanguinity. 

It was much, much later, coming back to church after a decade or more away, that I found myself listening for the truths behind the external trappings. And so, I suspect, it might be for others. At different times in our lives, different aspects of church life attract us. For me, it has come full circle, back to the liturgy I learned as a twelve-year old girl. It's been an interesting journey.