There were eleven congregants, the pastor and piano player making us a baker's dozen clustered in the old church at the top of the hill. We stood together, a silent semi-circle at the front of the church, while the pastor prepared communion. We prayed and sang and talked of life after death.
A sense of peace pervades the place and, whimsical as it may sound, called to me from the bell tower peaking out of the trees, all that I could see as I drove by on my way to another church in past months. I am happy in the moments I spend there, though we are early in our budding relationship - this church and I. Still, elderly faces creased in smiles as members welcomed me back. I relaxed into the corner of a pew, feeling comforted by the thought of the many people who had settled there before me, though few of them were in attendance on this particular Sunday.
There are just so many little pieces that I like. The way the usher pulls the cord hanging in the back of the sanctuary, waiting for the swing of the bell and it's resultant peal of noise to signal the start of worship. The flipping pages of hymnals before we stand to sing. The way the light washes across the floorboards and glimmers against the polished pews. Saying 'debts and debtors' rather than that thing about trespassing in the Lord's Prayer. Sermons that, while imperfect, make me pause to consider points and perspectives I'd otherwise have missed.
We talked of the Sadducees - their story is in Matthew, Mark and Luke - and their questions of a situation in which a woman had multiple husbands over the course of her life and to whom she would belong in the afterlife. So we discussed death in a quiet church with light streaming through the windows. And though he didn't mention it, I paused to think of The Great Divorce. Of the necessary release we make of the secular in order to direct our attention and begin the climb toward God. I read that during a very dark time and it gave me a sense of peace and hope and understanding that I desperately needed.
I find myself at a much brighter time in my life of late, but there are still interesting - and relevant - reminders of what this place is meant to be and how it differs from what waits. So it was a good lesson - and interesting sermon - but I would have approached it differently. (Just as last week when he took the opportunity to remind those of cultural popularity versus spiritual morality using the civil rights movement as an example from the past. I would have taken gays and lesbians in the church as a discussion for the present for it's rather ridiculous to tsk over the past when you're sinning in a very similar way in the present, says Katie.) But with both visits, I've spent some time thinking through my interpretations and how I want to apply scripture to my life.
So church is clearly an ought in my life but I also want it to be a like. And it seems I've found a place that enables that outcome. Thanks be to God. And peace be with you.