Heini Weidman had been in early and lit the stoves, and the edge of the chill was taken off, at least for those who sat nearest; mostly the little ones and the very old. One or two Sisters were moving quietly around the barn putting out the song books.
Eb looked for his mother as he arrived at the Gathering Place, and made his way along the bench to her once he saw where she was seated.
He bent and kissed the top of her head : “Mooma, I’ve news for you,” he whispered quietly in her ear. She smiled at him, her gaze wise and kind taking in her son, checking that all was well with him. “Jah, I heard,” she murmured back; “happiness, pink hair. That’s good news indeed.”
It was impossible to keep anything secret in a community; even sometimes things that hadn’t happened.
He grinned at her, kissed her again, and made his way back to sit with the Brothers on the other side of the barn.
At the front of the room, the Servant of the Light had got to his feet. “So;” he said, “greetings Brethren and Sisters, as we gather in the Light. Let’s sing.”
Eb loved the singing of the Kindred; a capella four-part harmony. The Servant kept time with the beating of his hand to the slow rhythm necessary for a large body of folk to sing together. Flo had said that in the Quiet Way they also played musical instruments in their Gathering, which sounded worryingly exotic to Eb. This was what he liked; the harmony of the community gathered in one song. Sing loud enough, he had been taught as a child, for your neighbour to hear your voice; and quiet enough to hear your neighbour’s voice.
It was a story of the Light in itself, the Kindred singing: the discipline of listening, the richness of all that individuality blending to lift up the Glory of the Light; attending to timing, from tenor and soprano to alto and bass giving back the intricacies that made the melody so rich and complete. The words of the songs bedded down into the music of singing, and arose from the hearts and souls and roots of the people, a living tissue of praise.
In the Old Order Forest Kindred, they sang for a long time. Then the preacher expounded the holy Word for a long time. Then they sat in the profound silence of prayer for a long time.
The weather of this great spiritual landscape varied as much as in any broad sweeping place. Eb found sometimes the Light broke through the clouds in a shaft that found its way clear to his soul. Such moments when they came always caught him by surprise; the touch of the Light finding him unexpectedly with its sweet blade of joy. More often his back ached, and his mind shrieked with boredom, desperate for the preaching to come to an end.
When Father Whichart took his turn to preach, he did not cut it short, but he lightened what he had to say with stories, with word-pictures that drew on the vivid, homely realities of their ordinary lives; lifting up the commonplace and turning it this way and that in the Light, opening the way in to the wonder that the Light’s mystery glows to sanctify every humble task, every cottager’s daily work; in the tears of a child over some tiny mishap, in the smell of apple pie wafting a welcome through the open doorway, in the lighting of the lamp on the family table as evening falls.
It was not so with every preacher; this morning Eb gritted his teeth through a rambling exposition that relied heavily on rhetoric and got to the heart of nothing.