I’ve had this post rolling around in my head for quite awhile, but I haven’t been sure how I wanted to approach it.
Originally, my post was going to be called “Why I Love Church,” but a conversation with Matt, my colleague and office-mate, reminded me that I actually don’t love church, and that I have huge issues with organized religion, in general, and that …
You get the point.
So, Matt said, all that being true, there is something, though…something there that you do want to write about, so you need to get to the bottom of it.
I started sharing with him what I was thinking, and by the time I was done, he said, “I don’t think you want to write a post saying ‘Why I Love Church,’ but instead, want to write a post about that particular little church you’ve fallen in love with.
And he’s right.
I’ve spoken, several times, about the fact that my Dad is a Presbyterian minister.
He retired many years ago, and now does supply pastoring for ministers who are ill or on vacation.
This position takes him far and wide on Sunday mornings, and on occasion, he has asked me to come with him.
This always makes those who know me well giggle a little, because I am not quiet about my issues with “the church” and my questions about faith.
So, the idea of me, up there, always takes people back.
But, let’s face it. I grew up in church.
I probably spent more hours in church in my childhood than some people spend there in their entire adult lives.
There are two places where I am completely comfortable, outside of my home, and those places are schools and Presbyterian churches.
I’m also a pretty good public speaker.
So, my Dad uses my strengths and combines them with his, and we deliver some pretty good sermons, where he deals with the theology, and I share stories and anecdotes that illustrate the point.
A few weeks ago, for two weeks in a row, we worked at a little church, about 15 minutes away from my house, but tucked in, where I never would have known it existed.
It’s probably the smallest church I’ve ever been in.
It would fit inside the auxiliary chapel that is next to the main sanctuary at my church.
And I loved it, instantly.
It’s an old church, and I love old churches.
This one was established in 1758.
I have a friend who works at a church in Georgia and it’s modern and technical and I don’t know…to me, something gets lost in the modernity.
Real Man and the kids go to a local Catholic church and it’s all sharp edges and modern decorating and it just doesn’t work for me.
There’s something about the simplicity of an old church that rings true, to me.
“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (which I like to call “Indiana Jones and his Dad”), is, by far, the best of the Indiana Jones trilogy.
Yes, I realize there was a fourth, but seriously? “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” doesn’t really count.
My favorite scene is when Indy finally makes it back into the room with the ancient knight and he has to choose the cup that is the Holy Grail.
When he sees it, he knows it instantly, for a simple, wooden carpenters cup.
A movie, yes, but that’s how I feel about church.
If Jesus came back to life today (we’re not talking end of days, here…just talking like I do when I say, “I wonder what George Washington would think of this if he came back”) I don’t think he’d be impressed with the massive, modern structures full of statues and nonsense.
The cathedrals of Europe?
But, I think, son of God or not, he was the kind of person who would be completely at home in the simplest of surroundings.
I am a 100% believer that there is beauty in simplicity.
So, we go in, and we are greeted by the man that opens the church in the morning.
He and my Dad chat, while I organize my papers.
By the time the service started, there were about 30 people in the congregation, which pretty much filled the pews.
It was a normal church service, but there were pieces that just made me fall in love.
At one point in the service, a woman stood up and walked to the front and asked people to share their joys and concerns.
People randomly called out things that they, or people they knew, were struggling with, or good things that had happened in their lives.
A woman sat, near the windows, and wrote down what people shared, and that is what, I assume, was the list that showed up in the bulletin, each week.
After the scripture readings, but before the sermon, the bulletin called for the “Chancel Choir” to sing the anthem.
Six people got out of their pews, went to the front, stood and sang a lovely song.
They wore no robes, didn’t sit in a loft, were backed by a piano, and it was beautiful.
While we preached, I was able to make eye contact with most of the congregation, and I could see them listening…really listening.
Children got up to explain that they would be collecting for the Souper Bowl of Caring, which would donate the proceeds to a veteran’s organization, and I know now, that they were able to raise over $300 that morning.
When the service ended, people talked to each other in the aisles and talked about bringing meals to the people who were sick, and asked how they could help the others who were in need.
They laughed and shared and caught up with each other, and slowly moved toward the back of the church.
They shook my hand and thanked me for coming and were gracious and sweet and welcoming.
The next week was similar, as we went back, again, with a different sermon, and this week, the church was packed, as it was Scouting Sunday, and the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, and Daisies all participated in the service.
That day, my Dad and I joined the congregation for the coffee hour, next door, and again, there were conversations and connections and community.
My Dad went back, again, last weekend, and I did not.
My gig with Dad was over, and I spent my Sunday morning at ShopRite with Tiny.
But, I gotta tell you… I missed it.
I missed being at that church, with those people.
Even not knowing a soul, it felt…good.
Don’t get me wrong.
I still love my church.
The church in which I grew up will always be home.
But there is just something about this place.
In the tiny narthex, there is a painting on the wall of the church, at Christmastime, and it just encapsulates how the place, and the people, makes me feel.
On my last Sunday with them, they came up to me and said, “Surely this won’t be your last Sunday with us. You’ll come back again, right?”
And despite the fact that I don’t go to any church, pretty much at all, anymore, unless I’m preaching or one of the kids is doing something special there, I have a feeling that, yes, I’ll be back for a visit.