Incident in a cathedral

I went to St Mary’s Catherdal in Sydney this morning, to the 9 am service. It’s an easy 15 minutes walk from my apartment. Just after the sermon, I noticed an older woman at the front of church look around and then hurriedly walk across the church to a point just behind the organist and look around again. Not finding the person she was seeking, she returned to her pew. Shortly after that, a man tentatively approached the pew. She saw him and beckoned to him to join her. He edged in next to her, keeping his distance. She smiled at him and stroked his arm. After that he settled down and she occasionally stroked his arm or patted his back. I thought to myself, there’s a story here — and my mind worked on this for most of the rest of the service.

A magnificent cathedral and an ordinary human story. What do these have in common?

The cathedral is a container, not for God but for our stories. I felt led to go to St Mary’s this morning instead of my usual small parish church (St Peters in Surry Hills) to find something, I didn’t know what. I encountered this woman and man living out part of their story in the front of the church. They were quite open about it, while most of us hid ourselves in the vast spaces of the cathedral and didn’t reveal our stories.

I hunger to know people’s stories and to share mine. It makes me impatient with the services I attend. I know, there is a time and place for human stories. St Peter’s provides an opportunity to share, after the service.  But how do I integrate all the stories vibrating inside the cathedral and St Peter’s with the celebration that we are witnessing? That is the question that puzzles me.

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