Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Seventh Church

On Holy Thursday in the Philippines, there is a Catholic tradition of visiting churches. Called Visita Iglesia, the "proper" way was to visit fourteen churches and say one of the Stations of the Cross at each one.

Most families these days visit seven, or at least ours has for as long as I can remember. We don't do the Stations of the Cross (that's something done on the evening of Good Friday) but do say our own quiet prayers at each one.

Since Little A came into the family, we have continued the tradition, but now do the church visits on Good Friday. And as we no longer live in the neighbourhoods we both grew up in, the churches we visit are the ones nearest where we live.

Big A has narrowed down the churches to six Catholic ones within a five mile radius, and one that is Anglican. He has a special affinity for this church because it is so simply furnished. None of the ornate altar carvings nor solid gold statues of velvet-attired saints, this one has simple wooden pews and a large cross. It keeps prayer straightforward, he feels.

I have no objections to visiting this church because as a product of the British boarding school system, I attended an Anglican school for five years. Every student was required to attend Chapel on weekday mornings, and a service on Sundays, when the Catholic contingent (less than 20 of us, all told) were bussed to the nearest church for Mass.

Our campus Chapel was small but pretty, and our weekday services consisted of a hymn, a reading or some school announcements, and a prayer to conclude. Each one lasted fifteen or twenty minutes and took place after breakfast and before the start of classes.

When the school closed in 2004 and the campus was turned into residential flats, the Chapel was either demolished or repurposed. Luckily, the altar remains, and has moved to a new home in Kentish Town.

This June, all alumni are called back to attend a memorial service for our former Head of Dance, who passed away early this year. It also marks 21 years since I left school and 11 since the campus relocated to Birmingham. I have not yet decided whether or not I will attend as the trip over requires funds and a visa. I will keep my fingers crossed, but in the meantime these annual visits to our neighbourhood Anglican church keep my memories of boarding school very much alive.

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