In the beginning was the Word.
That’s what I was taught anyway. I don’t know about God, and certainly not about churches where you can find God. On my travels, I go into old, beautiful churches to feel how they affect me. On one of my foreign journeys, I discovered a church where you can find WORDS. Lots and lots of words, written by humans. Humans with thoughts and imagination, humans who can tell a story that reaches other humans.
Stories can change lives. You can probably think of a story that changed your life, temporarily, maybe forever. Books changed my life. I was twelve when I fell seriously in love with books and bookstores. The nearest bookstore to my home was a modern, glass-encased corner store, with shelves and shelves of books. The aisles were narrow to fit more rows of books in the store. I would sit on the floor and pick out a book, smell the new paper, run my hand over the cover, my eyes feasting on the image. The books didn’t say “NO, don’t touch me”, the books did not shy away and close their cover. The books let me hold them, let me feel their weight, open them and enter. Mind finding another mind. What is sexier than that for a slow maturing teenager?
In western Europe, churches are closing; people don’t believe the words preached on pulpits any longer; they don’t want to enter the world that promises a better hereafter.
I walked into a church with a big metal book sculpted on its outside wall, the Dominican church in Maastricht, Holland. High arches and stained glass windows, let the light from above reflect in colorful images of saints. I found deep gleaming wood shelves instead of pews, and I found books and rows of books. Books in the languages of three countries touching each other in this corner of the world. Books open for browsing, for giving that special story, that special connection that can change a life, take someone away for an evening.
The Word is still alive, people are still hungry for it. The throng of humans roaming the isles was a testimony that a church can still have a function. Immediate, NOW.
This article originally appeared on Transformation Travel.