The church door had been forced open during the night. The church warden arrived early in the morning to unlock the place, only to discover the side door already swinging open. Her heart sank. The first thing she noticed was that all the candles had been lit. The main altar candles, the side altar candles, about 20 or so on the votive candle stand, the one in front of Our Lady. Lighting all the candles is quite an undertaking. And there, sitting a few pews up from the front, a solitary man sat still. He hadn’t broken in to rob or damage, he had broken in to pray. And judging by the amount of candle wax he burned, he had been there half the night. They chatted. He apologised for the door. And then left. Years ago, when I had the keys to St Paul’s Cathedral, I would frequently sit in there on my own at night. And I do the same now in my bombed-out community church. Here the silence creeps into me, a bit like the cold. Not the silence of empty nothingness, but the silence of sitting comfortably with a friend. I totally get why someone might break into a church to find it.
(Guest blog post by Giles Fraser, slightly abridged version of text first published in The Guardian Weekly, 13 January 2017)