I’m only here because I wandered in
Not knowing that a service would begin,
And had to slide into the nearest pew,
Pretending it was what I’d meant to do.
The tall candles cast their frail light
Upon the priest, the choir clad in white,
The carved and polished and embroidered scene.
The congregation numbers seventeen.
And awkwardly I follow as I’m led
To kneel or stand or sing or bow my head.
Though these specific rites are strange to me,
I know their larger meaning perfectly-
The heritage of twenty centuries
Is symbolised in rituals like these,
In special modes of beauty and of grace
Enacted in a certain kind of place.
This faith, although I lack it, is my own,
Inherent to the marrow of the bone.
To this even the unbelieving mind
Submits its unbelief to be defined.
Perhaps the meagre congregation shows
How all of that is drawing to a close,
And remnants only come here to entreat
These dying flickers of the obsolete.
Yet when did this religion ever rest
On weight of numbers as the final test?
Its founder said that it was all the same
When two or three were gathered in his name.