One day I’ll take you down to the sea. It’s at this time of the day that it’s most beautiful, the golden sky and the blue green waves reflecting in each other and calling your name. The sea in all its beautiful calm and gentleness and majestic chaos that calls over land, over the hills and the mountains and the fields come to me, come to me. The crystalline waves that lap against the shore and crash into each other in their relentless beating on kiss and caress your bare feet, warmed by the sun, now cooled by the waters.
We’ll go walking though the village I know as if it were my own, my home. Down the little row of cottages, run our hands through the lavender that gushes over the wall, splending and prickly and sweet, fragrant with the summer sun and the sea air. Run our fingers over the petals of the roses that frame cottage doors with their velveteen beauty, filling the air with that scent that never quite fades. We’ll eat chips the way they should be- salty and slightly soggy and tasting of the sea air, our fingers greasy and coated with the remnants of the unhealthiest seaside food to taste and be so good.
I’ll show you the place I know and love best. The graveyard with so many ancient and cracked and crumbling tombstones, the names a mere memory of the people laid below. The high stone walls that hold the prayers of thousands of lost, hopeful, loved people for millions of lost, hopeful, loved people they know and have never met. These stones soaked and resounding with the voices of people of prayer over centuries. The high oak doors that have swung open for bride and bishop and mourner and choir and child. Those heavy oaken doors that I ran my fingers over in reverence as a child, and now mark the gateway to so many of my memories.
The bells still peal with joy every Sunday. The ringers in their tower calling the faithful and the lost to prayer and worship. You can hear it from the other end of town and from the sea on a clear day. The peal of Portsmouth calling home those who hear.
The tiles know my feet. They know the feet of millions of worshippers throughout generations, people who come every week and people that came once, fifty years ago one Christmas Eve. These wooden benches held children of all ages for so many years, supported the weary and aged and reflecting. It is at these rails that the faithful have knelt and petitioned. It is in these very rows that praises have been lifted to God, hymns of old that speak of love and grace and mercy, new songs that call the people to lean on their Rock and Redeemer. We can sit here as long as you like, the last of the light streaming low through the glass, casting red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple across the aisles, halos illuminated with sunset, wings glowing in the evening light. The figures almost come alive in this light, the Temple courts drawing you in, the cross standing boldly in front of the congregation, the resurrected Christ in all His glory.
There is a peace that rests in this place, despite the grandeur of pews and steps and altar, despite the fumbled practise of the organ, reeds and pipes lending a hallowed hush to the stillness. I know these songs. I knew them as a girl, and I will know them still when I am old and fragile. That stall is where I sat for seven years, the days I sang the praises of the eternal and holy God I knew from infancy, when life was so busy and yet so carefree. It was here that I became. It was here that I grew. It was here that I learned the amazing mercy and love of God.
One day I’ll take you down to the sea. One day, I’ll show you the place that made me, and the beauty that I can never forget. One day, you’ll understand. This is my promise.