My family walked behind the chapel
By Grace Shelley
My family walked behind the chapel when I was ten as it made its second exodus, this time from
Birkdale to Tramway Road. Its first journey was on logs from Chelsea Sugarworks to Birkdale
Road because back then moving buildings on trucks hadn’t been invented yet. It felt important to
walk in the chapel’s wake, through faith all things are possible, just as six years later it felt
important that I sat on its hard floor, my hands shimmering on either side of her head the way
they are supposed to when you pray, like a wiri, like an uncontrolled heat. The chapel had broken
in neither of its two moves but I thought I would. There was something in her head I didn’t
understand and I spoke in tongues or something like them, words I did not intend to speak but
which were called forth from within me, “Let her go,” I said, “Let her go,” my voice becoming wild
like the locusts between John the Baptist’s teeth. I’m sure my hands rubbing at the blank air
around her skull scared her.
Where does that energy go when it is not believed in? It existed once between my hands waving
with the Holy Spirit and it existed in me falling in prayer and my knees not bruising. And then I
didn’t want my name to be graven on anyone’s hands and I didn’t want to feel like I was dying all
the time so I stopped the Holy Spirit from existing. Now I do not feel guilt with every sigh but my
hands still shimmer and I still feel that something holy is moving through me just not in a way the
Lord would approve of. My whole body is a prayer and I certainly speak in tongues.
Grace Shelley is a writer and teacher from Tāmaki Makaurau. She edits Overcommunicate, a creative journal which publishes works by queer writers and artists.