a worn floor

Yesterday I was in St. John’s, a modest-size, late 19th century church in rural Cheshire. I found myself looking at the worn coloured floor-tiles at the front of the nave, a little distance from the altar. They were quite beautiful, more so because of their age and the way in which the delicate flower motif which formed an ecclesiastical cross, was worn completely away in places. It formed a sort of desire path through the formal arrangement of tiles, a physical memory of those who had inadvertently erased the pattern. It reminded me somehow of an unevenly worn oriental carpet. But more fascinating than the immediate aesthetic of the floor was another, hidden level of beauty: the wearing away of the coloured glaze held within it an unspoken story. How many shoes had been on this very spot to distress the tiles in this particular way? And whose feet were they? Priests, parishioners kneeling for the eucharistic meal, choir boys, altar servers, farm workers, gentry. Men and women with their supplications and confessions kneeling here, the floor scuffed by the heavy boot of a laborer or a woman’s heel. Were their prayers ever answered? A newly-married couple’s happiness, a young woman’s secret shame, a farmer’s fear for his crop, a baptism, a funeral. The new convert’s contrition, the lost faith of the disillusioned. What had this old floor witnessed, growing old under the weight of human activity? Was it touched lightly by the hem of a wedding dress, did a child’s fingers dreamily trace the lines of its pattern, imagining it to be a field of pretty flowers? Do some of these same folk lie now in the peaceful churchyard outside, their lives remembered in the floor of the church, their concerns long laid to rest beneath lichen-covered stone?

One thought on “a worn floor

  1. Farrell Williams

    Psalm 54:2-7 NIV

    2 Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth. 3 Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life– men without regard for God. “Selah” 4 Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. 5 Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them. 6 I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O LORD, for it is good. 7 For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

    As l watch “a worn floor”


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