City Faith – Free Church, Green Park
Souvenirs of Christmas.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Encountering a collection of decorations after the event they were meant to celebrate is over presents a poignant sight. Like, the morning after the wedding. Or the day/s after Christmas, here at the Free Church in south Delhi’s Green Park.
The Christmas decorations in the prayer hall are looking fresh, untouched. The gaze first goes to the church’s many ceiling fans. These humble, everyday instruments have been turned into works of art. One fan has paper bells hanging from it. Another has red circular orbs. And then there’s a fan that seems to have a shiny tarantula clinging to it, as if they were two friends frozen into a tight embrace.
The walls are studded with Christmas wreaths, too.
Actually, the only spot in the church devoid of decoration might be the wall at the back of the altar. With nothing but a simple metal cross fixed on it, it draws attention because of its bareness. The communion table, though, has three flower bouquets arranged upon it.
Christmas ended days ago, but the souvenir of it remains, for now. This afternoon the church is empty. The red velvety seats of the pews look creaseless, as if nobody had sat on them for a long time. The silence is absolute but this silence appears extremely fragile, as if at any moment the great congregation was expected to storm through the doors and fill up the place.
The only visitor at this time is the sunlight, streaming through glass windows. Bands of light are falling on a smattering of benches. Parts of the wall are streaked with light too, and where it falls the wall seems to lose its solidity, seemingly melting into a porous substance.
While the side doors in the church are open to visitors (the pamphlets warn not to enter without the mask), its giant glass entrance is locked. Beyond it is the church’s main gate, which is locked too. But through the gaps you can glimpse the traffic on Aurobindo Road. The busy blur of the cars heightens the stillness inside the church.
In this quietude enters a young man. He walks to the aisle, stands in front of the cross for a moment, and then settles down on one of the benches, motionless.
Tracing its origin to 1955, the church remains open throughout the day from 7am to 7pm. Services are not being held in the premises due to the coronavirus pandemic “but sometimes people come alone or in a group of two, stay briefly and go away,” says the guard outside.
Life after celebrations