When Sancia arrived at my door I knew she was the ideal person with whom to start a religion.
“What are your influences?” I asked, which was my way of checking how closely she’d read the ad I’d posted.
“The Neo-Upanishads, the Q-plus Gospel, and I love the Schismatic-Sutras.”
“Awesome,” I said. “When can we start to rehearse?”
In less than two weeks we had the beginnings of several liturgies and I wrote a crackling benediction that was going to make for a great finale.
“I think we’re ready to headline,” I said to Sancia.
“I think we’re ready for transcendence,” she said back.
We crafted ornaments, made outfits and gathered the trappings we’d need for our first service. We took some tracts and tapes to a tiny chapel next to a row of run-down temples, pawn shops and closed restaurants. We talked with the owner and asked him to let us run a service. He insisted that the temple was fully booked. Sancia pleaded with him and he eventually agreed to have us in during a night the venue was supposed to be closed for cleaning. We spent nearly a whole week in meditation and fasting before taking another for other preparations. The day of our liturgical debut came and we made our way to the temple to lead worship.
The parishioners were restless and unruly at the beginning of the service. They spoke about our prayers and intonations in critical whispers. The building was less than a third full and there were likely more ordained and called people than congregation members.
As our rituals proceeded they started to settle. Sancia and I soon felt their collective focus as we led them through the chanting selections. They totally dove into the antiphonal call and answer readings we’d chosen and the congregation was bubbling with energy. As we went into our final hymn before the benediction the room seemed to be on fire. The people that watched our liturgical abilities with scepticism suddenly believed and had become transfixed. I looked over to Sancia to whisper how well we were doing but her eyes were rolled upwards as she sang. She was ecstatic with the visions of the divine and I quickly realized that our parishioners were primarily focused on her.
The light grew brighter in the room. It was as if everything I could see had become projected onto a screen directly in front of my eyes. The screen started to wash out, then tear and fray before some greater and brighter light behind it. The light tore and burned away further as Sancia’s voice rose up to greet it. Transcendence in our first liturgy? Impossible! I thought, distracting myself from the collective will. We had somehow created the grounds for intercession in some dive of a temple off the main drag. I’m not ready, am I? Is it time? I extended my arms to greet the intercession but in spite of my hopes I knew the light was not for me. Sancia was engulfed in the light to a series of gasps from the parishioners as her voice sounded out a brilliant cadence.
“Where are you going?” I shouted as the light receded back inside the frayed edges of my regular vision. There was no answer. She was already beyond words at that point and firmly enraptured. “We’ve just started! We have more to do! I can’t…” my voice trailed off. The divinity and Sancia were both gone. The congregation applauded wildly and I quickly painted a smile on my face and turned to them once more.
“Thank…thank you for joining us tonight for what has been a most sacred event.”
I left the temple with the parishioners and headed back into the streets. No one mentioned the missing benediction.
James Bambury writes from Brampton, Ontario. Visit his website at http://jamesbambury.blogspot.com.