Church Life, Mystic Sweet Communion, Reflectionary

You Can’t Go Home Again

I’m not preaching tomorrow, but I find I’m thinking a lot about the gospel lesson, in which Jesus stops off home with his disciples and discovers the hometown folk don’t think much of his ministry. Who does he think he is, anyway?

I sometimes wonder what the people of my childhood church would think if they heard I’m a pastor now? It’s a Southern Baptist church, and it contained people who ranged from free thinkers to (or so it was rumored) Klan members. I suspect the roles women played in that church years ago were limited by tradition. I haven’t been to church there in 30 years, save one visit when #1 Son was a toddler, so I’m not exactly up to date on the church’s character or culture.

Sometimes I dream I’m back there, walking through the building and into the sanctuary. I loved the curved pews and the expansive balcony and the stairways leading up to it. I loved processing down and around and up those stairs each year in the Christmas Pageant. I acted and sang on the broad and curving platform that formed a semi-circle in front of the baptistry. I remember sitting in the choir loft as a teenager and singing Handel and Bach for the first time. I remember being baptized there.

And I wonder, what would they think? After all, I came from them. Surely some of who I am is still influenced by those experiences with loving Sunday School teachers and a kind minister who sometimes preached too long having been gripped by either the Holy Spirit or a thought that hadn’t crossed his mind when he wrote out his sermon.

What would it be like to preach there?

I wasn’t thinking of it yet when I was young. I didn’t imagine myself standing behind the movable but impressive brass lectern that served as a pulpit, movable that it might not block the view of a baptism, that most central sacrament in our lives together, the focal point of our belief. That pulpit was so big, I don’t think I would want to stand behind it. It was designed with a tall man in mind, not a short woman. I think I would almost rather sit on the edge of the raised platform, which is really as high as a stage in that theatre-style church.

I wonder what I would say to them, but I also wonder if they would even listen in the first place.

Since I cannot say it there, I will say it here:

Thank you for teaching me the Bible stories that continue to inform and challenge me, I would say. Thank you for treating me with love when I was a small child and planting the seed that church would be the place I lived my life. Thank you for giving me the chance to sing and sing and sing when I was older, helping me to know music as a powerful connection to God, the route to refreshmen of the spirit when I am sapped and sagging. Thank you for the way you swarmed around me on the day you learned I was to be baptized, welcoming me to the family of faith. Thank you for all these things, even if I can’t come home again.

8 thoughts on “You Can’t Go Home Again”

  1. That is beautiful. I am impressed that you’ve been able to make peace with a church where you can no longer be “at home.”
    It took me a long time to come to grips with my “home church,” too, and to get beyond the restrictions to remember the nurturing. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. You gave me chills as I read this.
    Your childhood church is missing out if they do not know that you are a pastor. Surely they would be proud of you.
    Lovely post.

  3. echoing the others- a lovely post- wistful really- have you ever thought of telling anyone from your old church what you do now?
    I hope their reaction would beone of grace

  4. I really enjoyed your thoughts on this. I sometimes wonder going back to my home church to see who is there and if I remember anyone. Also, I wonder about the people that have come through the doors of the church I am a member and have gone on – what they are doing…. how this church has impacted them, as I remember how they were a part of this church…
    Did you get my email today?

  5. Well, they knew how to give you roots, even if they couldn’t give you wings. My own situation is not so different. But I also understand the poignancy of being from one world, but not in it, while living in a world that you are not from.

  6. This brought tears to my eyes. My home church was much like this and I know would not welcome back. It’s a delicate balance to remember the nuture though in their limitedness, they seem unable to embrace who I am now.
    Beautiful post.

  7. You were my first visitor to my new site, Songbird! I’m still very much playing with it and learning CSS and all. I have the code for the revgals. Much of being a webgeek is cut and paste.

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