The House of God was founded by fourteen souls always with the hope of more to come. But there was always more — lift up a flagstone, feel under the planks of the pews, and witness the onward march of veritable army finding sanctuary. The vanguard could have crowded inside the stuffing of an embroidered cushion and happily called it home. But as word got out a louder class moved in: circling rooks, who, landing, skimmed the roof slates and bounced along the leadwork, cawing to their kin, come, come, and that early coloniser, the pigeons, who pimped and preened and cooed loud enough to draw the hesitant blackbird and robin. The wind scattered moss seeds to the four corners of the roof, to the nooks and crevices that light could not touch.
The fourteen souls are long gone. Even the last in the line of preachers has packed away his slippers and his sermons. The remaining congregation is shy, but all you need is patience and they will present themselves. Turn off the lights, sit on a dusty pew and wait as the cooling convection heaters clank. Strain an ear. Sieve the silence and you will hear their fluttering heart beats as they wait. A woodlouse falls flat on its back from a crack in the wall. A spider spins a silk purse for a fly. In a tiny hole in the eaves a squeaking pipistrelle grown too warm from the low-angled sun glides into the night. A masonry bee gently butts its way out of its cell. A mouse scuttles inside a wall cavity filled with the dust of its ancestors. In a puddle of streetlight a stray hornet waits. Beyond its sight, beneath the skirt of green, a dressmaker’s yard in depth that circles the building, the topsoil clay ticks as it sighs out the moisture of the day.