I wrap my coat tightly around me and bury my chin in my scarf in an attempt to escape the cold wind. This was meant to be a quiet Sunday morning, spent snuggling deep in bed with a mug of coffee. But here I am, walking down the streets of London, heading to a church I’ve never been to before. Don’t let it be said that I don’t love my sister, I mutter to myself.
Charlotte is my flighty and boisterous younger sister, while I tend to be more level-headed. She has probably dabbled in every religion from Hinduism to Unitarianism at some point in her 58 year old life. Now here she is, settled in a vibrant, multi-cultural church. I’m just happy she’s finally returned to a religion I can wrap my head around. She’s been attending this church for a while now and has invited me a couple of times, but I’ve always been able to wiggle my way out of it. However, yesterday she called sounding quite emotional and invited me once more. I reluctantly accepted.
The icy wind nips at my face bringing me out of my reverie. I look up to spot the church sign and let out a sigh of relief that I’ve finally made it. My ankles hurt from the walk and I can’t wait to get indoors. The constant frown on my face has deepened.
As I walk through the gate, there’s a man in a fluorescent jacket standing by.
“Morning ma’am! You alright?” He says with a wide smile.
I shrug in response and walk by. Rude, I know. It’s almost sub-zero temperature and my face is frozen into a scowl. That’s my excuse.
As I walk into the building, I’m met with a pair of happy ladies. Their warm smiles welcome me into the foyer.
“Welcome to church!” they say happily.
I grunt in response and walk further in. They can’t all be this cheery, I think to myself. Although this time, I feel a pang of guilt as well.
The warmth envelopes me and I feel like crusty, ice flakes are melting off me. There’s a lovely smell of pies wafting through the air and I feel like a little girl who has just come home. I shake off the nostalgic feeling and follow the stream of people walking into the main hall where the service will be held. As I get to the door, a smart looking gentleman smiles at me and takes me by the hand.
“Marjorie, I presume?” He asks.
“Ye-yes?” I stutter in response.
“Your sister told us to expect you, she’s saved a seat right next to her. Do come with me.”
He leads me within the hall and the music engulfs me. Sweet worship that sounds so heartfelt. I feel special and humbled all at once.
As I walk in behind him, I spot Charlotte seated up front. She turns around and our eyes meet. In that moment, I begin to understand why she has settled here. Her face looks calm and there’s a peace in her eyes I’ve never seen before, a peace which she must have been searching for all this time. This is why she stayed.
As I get to her seat, Charlotte gives me a big hug.
“Thank you” she said. I can hear a slight shake in her voice and I realise how much this means to her.
I lean out of the hug and hold her face in my hands, I can already tell that this place is changing me.
“No darling, thank you”.