Found in that Place

Birthday - Pew I

I grew up in a house beside a church.

It was a beautiful church. It was small with stained glass and wooden pews. Ruby red carpet, linen clothes draped across the altar, thick white candles, and a golden cross above.

The church door was always open. My step-father was the vicar, and he would even open it for me especially if I asked.

And so I would go there often.

Sometimes it felt as if it were my own. The place where I felt peace.

I did not have my eyes open to God in fullness then, but there was something different about that place, and I recognised Him there. And it drew me back over and over.

And so, after school, I would cross from the porch of our home to the wooden steps of that little church and go in through the open door.

It was quiet there. Thick with something comforting.

I would sit on the carpeted step of the sanctuary and look high above at the stained glass Jesus in His scarlet robe.

I would stand in front of the golden cross, and reach out to it.

I would sit beside the altar and silently cry when I felt bad about one thing or another.

And I would stay there until the peace came.


At the moment, I am researching for a Christian novel that I am working at writing. Part of this involved visiting a church here in London today. I walked through a yard of crumbling headstones. Lives from a hundred years ago. Names unknowable now. The stone church was magnificent overhead, its steeple shadowing me far below. I walked along the path.

The door was open.

Stepping into that place, I recognised that atmosphere.

Thick with something comforting.

Thick with Him.

Twenty years later and many thousands of miles from home, but it felt the way it always did in that place today.

So I sat down at a wooden pew. And I stayed there until the peace came.

© Photo and writing copyright by Birgit Whelan 2008 – For Mum and John, with love.


~ by Birgit on September 20, 2008.

16 Responses to “Found in that Place”

  1. !!!Beautiful!!!

  2. Wow! What a great memory to have, and what a comforting place to go to…

  3. Simply beautiful! I know that feeling too. It’s wonderful. Nothing like it. :)

  4. I can’t wait to read your novel – it will be wonderful!

    As you were talking about the thickness of Him in that place it reminded me of a term I have heard recently: thin places. You can do a google search and a bunch of sites come up that describe it. I found this quote on one of them:

    In the Celtic tradition such places that give us an opening into the magnificence and wonder of that Presence are called “Thin Places.” There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.

    Later the same site quotes a poem:

    A contemporary poet Sharlande Sledge gives this description.

    “Thin places,” the Celts call this space,
    Both seen and unseen,
    Where the door between the world
    And the next is cracked open for a moment
    And the light is not all on the other side.
    God shaped space. Holy.

    Since you are in research mode and the idea is mostly Celtic in nature I thought you might be interested.

    This is the site I pulled these quotes from:

    Write on, Birgit. :-)

  5. I would like experience more ‘thin places’. Love the description!

  6. I know that feeling.

  7. I had an amazing experience in a Church once, I was alone (well…) and quietly praying eyes closed when I heard a man kneel beside me and just the sound of his breathing. I opened my eyes, expecting to see a friend from youth group, and was astounded to find the Church still silent and empty. I stood up and scoured the Church, so convinced of a man’s presence, then returned to kneeling praying eyes closed. The breathing started again and I realized who it was. I don’t know how long I was there for, only a minute it seemed, then gradually I became aware of myself again and a friend walked in whom I was able to share my experience with. He seemed to me to be a worldly sort, so I was surprised his reaction was awe and wonder and belief in my experience. He passed away tragically a year or two later.

  8. Thank you so much, samrosemin.


    Hi ripple, yeah, I’m so thankful for these memories. The thing that stands out for me about it is seeing God at work in hindsight. That I did not fully know Him then, but He was there in those circumstances, drawing me, revealing Himself. I am so thankful.


    Hi Rachel, lovely to see you, that’s so great you can relate, yeah it’s such a beautiful memory to have.


    Wow @ngie, thank you so much for your reply and for the thought you have put in, I really appreciate it. The idea of “thin places” is beautiful and new to me. I can relate very much to it though. Even though God lives inside us by His Spirit, and He is everywhere, to me it seems that there are some places, such as these churches, where His Presence is particularly felt. I really liked this idea of a “veil” that can be lifted, giving us a clearer glimpse of God and His glory.
    Thanks for your support with my writing, I will look forward to looking at these links more closely. Love and blessings.


    Me too, ripple :)


    Hi M Patterson, thanks for stopping by, that is so great you can relate.


    Hi Ruth, I loved this story, thank you so much for writing about it. What an amazing thing, experiencing the physical Presence of God next to you as you prayed. This has happened to me only twice in my life. Jesus did not appear to me visibly, but His Presence came into the room in power. They were times of absolute need. To be honest, I was so freaked out. Were it not for the power of His compassion and love, which was being poured out on me in His Presence, I think I would have been completely terrified. His Presence is awesome and as much as He is a God of love, He is to be feared. I know people say that means “reverence” but if my experience is anything to go by, it’s fear in the true sense of the word. Sorry to deviate. It was amazing to read how He was next to you as you prayed. So much so that you got up to look for another person in the church.
    I thought it was wonderful how that man came in to the church who you were able to talk with about what had just happened. It’s sad that he passed away tragically not long after, but who knows, perhaps God used your conversation to reveal something of Himself to this man. Lots of love Ruth, and also to the Chris and the little ones xoxo

  9. I can not wait to read your novel Birgit. Your writing and thoughts are beautiful. I love how the Lord does this. He takes a childhood memory and weaves it throughout our entire life..makes me realize once again how fleeting out time is here, and how perfect His plan is from the beginning to the end. Thank you for sharing this, it is good to be still and know that He is God, and to have that peace.

    Love you!

  10. It is often my privilege to open the Living waters Church.As one of the Pastors there I often close it when everybody has gone. This is an old chaple that is alongside Manston airport which was a former battle of Britain drome. There are only two churches in manston and this is one of them. When it is still in there you can feel the presence of Jesus and how many Battle of Britain pilots worshiped in there and never returned. That was their battle. There is a battle that is waged right now. For the souls of those around us. The best bit is that this one has allready been won on that cross by our Lord Jesus. But oh the presence of him when all is still.

  11. Hi!

    After we visited a congregation which have church right across our home in a school hall yesterday, I told Petrus the exact same thing…”I felt at home”! My parents still live in the house I grew up in – 1 small block from church. I use to hear the bells ringing every Sunday, and we girls walked to church.. Those bells were so much as part as my life, and though the bells weren’t ringing yesterday, I often heard the beautiful voices singing from the hall – those things you realise important, only once they’re absent…

    Let us also praise God today for good health too!

    Thank you Birgit, you are a jewel.

  12. I remembered the prayer chapel at college. I spent quite a bit of time there wondering, praying, hoping to hear a clear plan for my life. I did.

    I married the guy that accompanied me there most often. ;)

  13. who* accompanied… :oops:

  14. Hi Debs, thanks for your lovely encouragement. I love the way you described that, God weaving a childhood memory through our lives. I love being able to look back and see God’s hand :), love you too.


    Hi Cyril, I loved hearing about this. The blessing of being the first and last in the little chapel in Manston, and experiencing Jesus’ Presence there. Bless you, Cyril, and the amazing outreach that you and Rob lead your church in.


    Hi Des, the church bells! And walking with your sisters to church. Such lovely memories. I loved the sound of those bells growing up too. So happy for you that you and Petrus were really blessed by the service at the nearby church too.


    That’s so great, Michelle, love that story! :)

  15. What a beautiful entry Birgles – I remember “your” chapel clearly and the peace that it brought – I loved visiting there too and was always a bit amazed that we were allowed in there when “church” wasn’t in session! Little did I know…
    Love to you and Michael xxx Em

  16. Hi Em, Yeah, I loved that we could spend time in there, I remember when we were really young, singing with you in front of all those people there too, funny times. Love you, miss you, Birgs OX


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