Saturday the 13th of November was Sputnik Edinburgh’s first in-person gathering since a certain earth-shattering event, and the gathering was good. King’s Building, with its concentric rings of red chairs, was our spacious café complete with chocolate-covered digestives and oreos. We came from Edinburgh, far, far awa’ Dundee, and even rivalrous Glasgow. We came in faded jeans and face masks, smooth navy coats, resting mohawks and mustard beanies. We quickly found our way to my favourite new space where faith and art belong together and have never been separate.
“Save me into the belly of a fish, when I’ve been tossed into the waves because I tried to run away from whom you want to Save me…”
Gentle waves of that refrain lapped at the legs of our chairs as Rachel Zylstra’s leviathan song — featuring Christy Ringrose — took us into its mesmerising undercurrents. I didn’t notice the room starting to flood. My eyes were still closed when we were swallowed by the whale. Your turn: here’s Jonah by Rachel Zylstra, with animations from another Sputnik Edinburgh member, Amanda Aitken.
Then, intros and art-sharing. Sometimes sharing work with strangers does feel like being squeezed between colossal moist ribs (we were still sitting in concentric circles of red chairs) but everyone participated, welcomed and showed appreciation. Ancient words like “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” lived out new meaning.
Lunch was objectively amazing (I think we were spat out by now) because avocado goes with everything that can fit in a wrap, and there were these crunchy chunks of chorizo.
I shared a poem, on trying to rediscover race and black identity outside of racism. There was a song with rap verses by Phil Austin, who isn’t afraid of love, being saved or hitting falsetto tones.
An Edinburgh author, interviewed by Luke Davydaitis, shared the many times God called her to persevere, with faith — into blessing after blessing in her life and her writing. After being prophetically called into her craft, she learned to enjoy trusting the uncommon sense of God that has led to several timely opportunities. In describing her shaping of narratives and characters, she said it’s an ongoing partnering with words and the Word – “we do it together”.
That doesn’t mean it was easy to remember how the writing process starts, especially having committed so much of the recent past to a mode of ruthless editing, cutting out, “killing” and clearing that which needed to go to let the work speak for itself. In the space of honing, the “editor” has to be given the right, and the room, to move the work on. What she did remember from the space of starting was the voice of the “darling”, and its impulse to be playful or obscure, observational, imaginative, unfinished and unlabelled.
Then we heard the excerpts. As she read, the room was hushed and we journeyed through a world between oblivious childhood and obsessive adulthood, with characters from both and the transition. Her reading was deeply captivating, with the immersive imagery of Gilead and the quirky accuracy of The Brothers Karamazov. I saw everything she was saying, completely lost track of time and wished it could go on with the visceral remorse of a child called from playing.
This author is hoping to find a publisher in the new year, and I can’t wait to read the whole story of a deep, young girl losing family and confronted with a titanic question: “how do you hold on to the moments you love?” The uncertain road to publishing throws authors against some other tough questions. She has had to seriously consider, after achieving so much and coming so close to sharing it, whether this book will ever be published. In the grieving, the meaning of past sacrifices (“good” teaching jobs etc.) the wisdom of her faithfulness, come under scrutiny.
Wrestling with your purpose does not always look like “success”. So she asks herself, if you knew it would all come to “failure”… when “all” means a decade of work, and you lose right at the last step — would you still follow Jesus? “Yes, a thousand times yes.” Only she knows the weight of those 3 letters, beyond the word-count of her book; it’s the weight of Christian integrity.
Challenged to rethink success, we prayed. Christy Ringrose and Rachel Zylstra took the stage again, with a song that came just in time to soothe our wordless unrest – My First Winter by Christy Ringrose.
I’ve been going back to that day in my mind, and wrote Manna as map and memento.
Powerful. Saturday was saturated With “Wow”, “mhmm” and the shock Of respect cracking quiet Honour’s chrysalis as Reverence.
“Churches are designed to feel Too big so that standing In one reminds you of Your smallness And G_d’s Grandeur.” Like artists who can dance with G_d and fill the entire stage of my imagination with living Word.
So, what to say about Saturday? Manna? Or Mexican wrap? It’s joys have sintered in memory Like “My First Winter” it was Boudica Bap-tism. We entered The belly of a fish – at King’s Church We saw G_d through A prism of hard-won wisdom. He asked me to give this Living hand, now warm for His vision, I Thank God and clap.