I did something today that, up until a very short time ago, I never even dreamed of doing. Never once did such a thought cross my mind. Although, hindsight is 20/20 and it definitely should have. All the signs were there.
Quick Reminder: I’m a pagan and I work in a church. A nice little church with nice–for the most part–people who happen to be a wee bit older than Yours Truly and, well, it shows. I have always been the Under Dog’s Biggest Supporter. All my life. Drove my mother nuts, it did. So, I can’t help rooting for this place and trying my absolute best to elevate it and drag into the latter part of the 20th century. (Yes, I know what century it is.)
I also know that some of those church members will find their way here to this post. So to them: Hello! So glad you’re here, please stay and read…with that Open Heart and Open Mind you advertise. If the following pisses some of you off, you should step back, take a few deep breaths, read again calmly, slowly, and in my voice not your own. (You’ve probably at least spoken with me on the phone so you know what I sound like…toss a little Erma Bombeck in there for good measure.) If you’re still pissed off after that, you should go to the nearest mirror, stare straight into it, and ask your reflection; “Why am I angry with this woman who is trying, in her own way, to honestly help a place that I love?”
Everybody else ready?
Here we go.
Ever since I got my job over two years ago I’ve hated going into the Sanctuary. That’s the…well…the Church part of the church for those of you who don’t know. Never in my life have I gotten a Bad Vibe in anyone’s House of Worship and I have been back to my Childhood church St Joseph’s on several occasions. I came to pride myself on the fact that I had come to terms with the Christian God, we sat down, had a nice long chat, realized this wasn’t going to work for either one of us, and parted as friends. I now how strange that sounds and yet it’s the truth or…you know…my truth, anyway. Over the decades, I’ve been in several Houses of Worship and always felt nothing but welcome.
I kept telling myself it’s just the fact that it’s dark in there–the frickin’ light switches are up a small set of stairs hidden on the wall. That’s all. Just dark. It’s all wood. Really nice old..oak, I think it is. From beams, to pews, to altar, to wainscotting. Which makes it, yeah, a little dark. I thought maybe that was what made it feel so heavy.
But there was an undeniable odor.
It would get stick in my nose and make it hard to breathe. I waited for two plus years for someone, just in passing, to say something like; smells funny up there. Then I would know it wasn’t just me–which it so often is and I was afraid it was. No one ever made any such comment.
One day I came home and I discussed this offensive smell with my husband. I realize my choice of words was poor, as you will see, but that is exactly the way it smelled to me. I told him: You know that smell wood makes just a few seconds before the flames actually catch? That’s the way it smells.
To wit he laughed and laughed and laughed and mumbled something about it; bursting into flames because there was a pagan standing there!
Go on…laugh. It is funny.
But that is the exact scent. I cannot possibly describe it any better than that.
It got to the point where I bought ‘light scented’ air spray (Bamboo scented) and would spritz the sanctuary now and then. Within the last few months it got to the point where I didn’t want to take the bulletins inside. I’m supposed to leave three of them in the sanctuary; 1 on the pulpit, 1 on the lectern, and 1 way in the back for the videographer. I didn’t want to go into their Hall, it didn’t smell in there but the sense of heaviness was pervasive. I could almost hear people shouting in there.
Let’s get back on track here.
Two years go by. I do my thing at work. They drive me crazy as I try desperately to help them Level Up….just one little level…just one. They need to make a ten level Leap of Faith but, I’ll take a visible baby step if that’s what I can get. Suffice it to say they’re stuck. Like that scene in “My Cousin Vinny”. You know that scene?
Ok? Got it?
Only it’s not funny.
Anyway, over the course of those two years a very strange thing has happened to me in that I have come to like the Reverend very much. I never dreamed of such a thing. She’s pretty cool. She lives up to the sign outside their front door which is nice. Always a good thing that is. We’ve come to have this working relationship where we bounce things off each other in relation to WTF is Going On Around Here? She makes no judgements about my Path and I make none about hers. BTW, that’s the way it’s supposed to be out there in the Real World of America every single day. You know, just so you know.
Lately, during the course of our chats, once or twice, out of a mixed sense of humor and seriousness, I suggested we smudge the sanctuary.
It was very clear by this point there really is a crapwad of Negative Energy just oozing its way around the place. It’s delighting in holding the place back. Yes, I know how insane it sounds to smudge a freakin’ church. Ok? Believe me, I got it.
Over the last week or so I have brought in my smudge sticks. I really wanted to bring in my whole kit but I thought that might be a little much considering the location. She’s mentioned it again and again. I was just waiting for her to say ‘Go’ because the Universe already had. As odd as it was, and as lighthearted as it was meant to be, when I ventured the idea of smudging the first time I heard an undeniable, not ‘yes!’, but rather a a soft, ‘oh, please’ from the Universe. So all Systems were Go on that most important front. The Big JC and his Daddy weren’t going to get mad over it and Everybody Else was also on board.
Today was the day.
I used most of the last of my White Sage on the place as I got every pew, every window, every door, the altar, the organ, the piano and…oh yes…the entire building. ALL of it except the attic. ALL of it. TWICE.
I did it once with her and it felt OK, she had a lot of questions that I have to get comfortable answering because they’re good honest questions and they deserve answers. But this is like my books in many ways, not only is it deeply personal, I just don’t like talking about it. It’s hard to explain and you might join the long line of people who think I’m nuts.
That’s probably why I didn’t feel comfortable speaking the words that the Universe was asking me to say. I waited for that for the second round. We went from the sanctuary, to the front doors, back down again, and through the midway to the Hall. Everywhere we went she seemed to feel pretty much everything I did and I thought that was pretty damn cool. Another sign from the Universe that we were doing the right thing.
By the time she left for the day the place was already feeling a lot lighter. Almost like a strong wind finally finally found its way around to blow away a big black cloud. After she went, His Majesty clearly spoke up:
You know, you did forget the two back staircases.
Yep, I did. You’re right.
Well, you know…
Negative Energy likes to run and hide. I got it.
So, I got up and did the two backstair cases where, yes, yes, indeed, some of it appeared to have fled. Then I did the whole building again and let the Universe use me to give Itself voice. We banished all negativity, all negative energy, all the things that sought to hold the place back, to hold it in the grip of fear, keep the status quo and, by osmosis, refused to let it grow. We brought in light so the place could grow again. We welcomed change so maybe it could not just grow but thrive.
Never in my life did I ever for one millisecond thing that I would be called upon to smudge a church. I knew from day one that the Universe had a solid reason for putting me behind that desk in that place at that exact time. That was undeniable. This was unfathomable. And it was so freakin’ awesome!!!
By the time I left the it almost felt like a new place so full of bursting potential and life. Believe me, I left it absolutely steeping in sage smoke. I got every single corner.
Now we wait and see. I’m already thinking of doing it again next month. I’m not an idiot, one really good smudging probably isn’t enough to banish decades, if not centuries, of festering negativity. Oh, how I’d love to do it on Monday! Halloween Itself. How perfect would that be? The Day of Days for just such a task. If no one was going to be there I’d bring my whole kit.
Yep, today definitely goes down on Aunty Moon’s List of Things I Never Thought I’d Do but Did Anyway.
I mean something like that wasn’t even on my Bucket List.
Many thanks to the Universe for tapping me for this most honorable task. I am as humbled by it as I am enlivened and enriched.
Now, to you church folk who have stuck with this ….if you’ve read this before you go to worship on Sunday,you probably won’t notice anything because you’ll go in with preconceived notions. But…keep an eye on your friends who haven’t read this. See if they seem any…lighter, happier, a little more ‘there’. As though the wind had suddenly changed direction and is blowing afresh.
If you’re mad over it, I want you to do me one favor because I know you won’t follow the steps above and get all introspective about it. Ready? Stop cooking with sage. Go to your spice cabinet and toss it in the trash now. Don’t ever buy it again. If you need it, I’ll give you a list of very common every day other herbs and spices you should get rid of although I must warn you, it will leave your cooking rather bland.
To everyone else, thanks for letting me share this most delightfully unexpected experience with you.