Posting earlier today about dancing and singing brought back a memory from nearly thirty years ago, during the time I was training for ordination.
Some deep and dear friendships arose from that training course; they call it "formation for ministry", and rightly so. It's powerful and rigorous, and turns you inside out at times. Your companions on the journey are witness to the depths of your soul.
I no longer see any of them, ever, but they are still kept securely in my heart; neither they, nor the love that lay between us, is ever forgotten. I keep track of their lives through the public media.
In those days, I loved to dance. My friend Paul was in the year above me, and he told me there was a night club in London called Heaven. I had never been to a night club, but as soon as I heard the name of it I wanted to go. So he volunteered to take me on a visit to this club. He lived in a small, shared house in Brixton. It was his own house, but he only had one room inside it, so after we had been to the club we would go back there together and I would sleep on the floor like he did.
Night clubs aren't all that special really, if you aren't on the pull and don't want to get drunk or do drugs. It was okay, but I never felt inclined to go back. Afterwards, staying over at Paul's house, I was wide, wide awake from all the stimuli of an unfamiliar experience. While Paul slept, I listened to the lone Brixton sparrow outside his window, saying "Chirp. . . Chirp. . . Chirp," as the dawn gave on to the sunrise. In the morning, we walked into Brockwell Park and sat in the rose garden there, where whole flocks of sparrows gathered and hopped about around our feet.
It was a happy visit. Paul was a dear and treasured friend, always very kind to me, a profound and honest thinker, and a man of great courage and integrity. I think he must have made a wonderful priest.
But what I took away from it, and tucked into the jewel box I keep in my innermost heart, was the knowledge that — for one night only — I had spent the entire night dancing in Heaven.
I hope that will be my eternity one day. Only that it will be the real thing, not a vaguely grubby night club under the London arches, but the place where all the light comes from.