Above and Below

This church is so cool on a hot summer day. I don’t know who is paying the air conditioning bill at this gothic masterpiece at high noon in the middle of August, but I’m glad it’s not me.

I found this dark, vaulted, holy space when I tapped into my app, Church Finder. I had just dropped off all of the paperwork for Chris’s visa to India. Yippee. But now I had to get back to my job uptown. I kind of wished I could revisit that Louise Nevelson chapel from yesterday. It was so lovely, bright and right near the subway. I started walking west.

The nearest church according to the app was St. Thomas Church at 53rd and Fifth. I felt a bit tired. I have been getting up early to blog, Twitter, Facebook, and work on my novel. I’ve been staying up late for the same reasons. But the cold blast of Christianity hit me. I liked the stillness, the darkness, the emptiness, after a bright, crowded afternoon.

The cool air had everyone in this church smiling as they walked in or out. Smiling in church made me think. Before I started grammar school at St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in Skokie, Ill., my family went to church there. I don’t remember ever praying, but I definitely remember being told to stop giggling. I also remember how proud I was when my father was the lay reader. And how surprised the priest was when I asked him in Second Grade, “Why can’t women be priests?” I am still asking that.

A few people were entering the church. I got the vibe that a 12 o’clock service would be starting soon. God knows I didn’t want to get stuck in a service. I knelt quickly in a small altar area.

The grating on the floor rumbled and the bells overhead rang. Wow. I felt the earth move beneath me. And the bell chime over me. Very nice. Very unplanned.

The church itself is grand. But the impression of the air conditioning, the bells, the subway’s rumble; the things that you can feel always trump the things that you can see. Though the altar is a feast for the eyes with lots of life-size sculptures floating up the back wall — Hard to explain and it’s getting late again.

Tomorrow I will be back up in the Adirondacks, thanks to Amtrak, just for a few days, but there’s bound to be a church-a-day there too. Can’t wait to see.

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