There is a Moravian Mission in the village of Tinana in the Eastern Cape.The church is at the end of the village. Every Sunday morning at 9 o’clock I can hear the church bell ring as if on my door step. I do not remember one Sunday where my grandmother and I missed the last bell ring.
My grandmother says not to talk, fiddle with my clothes or run around in the house of the Lord. The white benches are filled with everyone I know from the village within a few minutes. The choir begins to sing a song from the Hymn book and I watch as the ceiling stretches open like my grandmothers voice.
There is a presence of silence that I have come to know inside these walls buzzing with “How great thou Art”. It swallows me up and I watch myself wanting to speak, wanting to sing, to clap my hands but I am paralysed by the silence. My body and spirit are stripped into two different worlds. The intervals before each heartbeat become anticipating. Angels of silence pass by and we make wishes like death never existed. Silence becomes the intimidating stare of the men seated respectfully at the front of the church. The pulpit is a container of a thousand prayers overflowing with desperation but I do not see anyone’s lips move. I am a quiet whisper in the midst of all the noise coming from the pulpit. Eventually there is one voice chanting praises from the back of the church and silence becomes a song humming itself between the gasps of breathe.
I watch as the ceiling blasts open from the heavy load of holy noises and I want to become the ground shaking from the explosion, I want to become the dust rising from ground, or at least the wind blowing from all sides, swinging the doors and windows open. But I can feel my grandmother’s stare on my back and my lips do not move.
I wonder if I am ever going to be anything but silent, perhaps comfortable. Anything but this silence I feel creep in like a stutter as it numbs my entire body. My spirit is kneeling at the alter oozing a kind of peace my body has never encountered, it has also filled the pulpit with a prayer pulled out from the bottom of my belly.
And yet, my lips have not moved. The pleats on my dress are still straight and I am still seated upright on the bench. Listening.