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The Prayer Seeker

faith. What we all need to remember, Michael, is that God is very rarely either / or, but
he’s actually both / and. There’s no reason why you can’t attend Quaker meetings if you
want to at the same time as visiting your local parish church. These days a growing
number of people do that in some shape or fashion. It’s not a sin.”
“That’s easier said than done,” Michael replied. “My whole life has been spent
separating aspects of existence out into compartments. It seemed to make things simpler.”
“And now?”
He hesitated once more before answering. “Now spending time trying to pray seems
to make things begin to come together, sidling in quietly to avoid attention, but I
understand they’re there. But opening myself up to a broader concept of what formal
churchgoing, or even faith, might mean would be …”
Chris didn’t prompt him to finish; he simply waited until Michael was ready.
“It would be dangerous,” he whispered, staring out at the garden and the clear skies.
“In what way?”
Michael swallowed. He knew that, having completed his words, this question was
bound to be asked. Somehow his need to speak out had run away with him. From a basic
query about churchmanship, they had travelled a long path in a matter of moments. Odd
how sometimes God acted like that but it didn’t mean he had to like it.
He took a breath and gazed at Chris. “In a way that makes me revisit the difficult
things of the past, rather than just the parts I’m searching for.”
Or the parts that had revisited him themselves, such as his ex-wife and ex- girlfriend,
he could have added, but didn’t. It didn’t seem helpful.
Once more Chris let the silence flow between them before speaking.
“Perhaps, when the time is right, you could consider allowing all of your life into the
open, Michael.”
That suggestion followed Michael around as he began his first session of
volunteering work with Derek in February. They melded with the underlying flow of
quietness and confidence until he could not tell where one thought began a nd another
Derek had suggested that he might like to volunteer in the office of a local old
people’s home. Apparently their paperwork was out of control and they needed all the
help they could get. To Michael that sounded perfect, particularly as he needed a job
where he could rely on the familiar rhythms of working life and still leave his mind free
for pondering prayer. He also needed to give his attention to the concept that there was
still a world outside his own head and spirit. In that, Chris had certainly been right.
He arrived at Thorley Wood Old People’s home just before 9.30am, the time Derek
had specified. The building was Victorian, by the look of it, with the sort of strangely-
shaped chimneys that had once revealed a home-owner’s wealth, and a small well-kept
garden with a bird-feeder. The air was biting and he was glad he’d worn a jumper against
the wind. Even as this thought slipped through his mind, somebody called his name and
he turned round and saw Derek himself.