Stephanie Ann Whited
Place: Grace Church, East Village, Manhattan, NYC

In Grace, all utterances, including movement or thought, resound and therefore must be performed with intention.

Although my mother was firmly raised Catholic, my parents married in the church, and my brother and I were baptized as babies, we only attended mass on select holidays. A slight jealousy when left alone with my brother during communion was the only remotely negative feeling I remember from mass. Mostly I experienced wonder.

At 18 attending college in New York, having arrived from Memphis only two weeks before 9/11, I sought a place of removal from the city. Without time or money for travel and the decided inappropriateness of climbing a tree, I took frequent walks alone. Usually helpful, these could pace my thoughts to high speed or encourage narrative abstraction. On one, I became frighteningly aware of the disconnect in my presence. I saw Grace was open and went inside, slowly – the doors would not allow anything but. The city couldn’t follow. I performed what ritual I could remember to kneel on a pew, then I clasped my palms, closed my eyes, bowed my head, and projected. I took myself seriously, asked myself questions, heard answers, and listened emphatically. I continue to visit the church to lose sight of what’s not important.