I was getting ready for church this morning when I got a call from the Chair of Trustees at First Parish, canceling our service due to inclement weather and hazardous driving conditions. And my next thought? Hmm, I wonder if I can go to church. My home church, as we say, the church that nurtured me through seminary and ordained me, the church that holds my membership but which I can never get to, is right in the neighborhood, and they did not cancel.
They never cancel.
I remember in the year of my divorce getting three young children out of the house to walk there (we lived even closer), hauling ourselves over banks of snow so I could sing in the weather-reduced choir.
During the Children's Sermon, I heard someone murmur, "Those are all Sunday School teachers' children."
Yes, they are the hardcore faithful.
I saw old friends, was kissed and hugged. I surprised people by being there. I enjoyed the worship service, the big organ, the total lack of responsibility.
And I cried, at odd moments.
I cried sitting in the quiet, at that point mostly empty, sanctuary before the service started. I cried during the prayer. And I cried, ridiculously, when the choir sang Healey Willan's "All They From Sheba Shall Come" as the Benediction Response. I sang with them, in my mind, the music moving through me. The soprano soloist saw me and smiled.
Other things, other memories, moved through me. We heard the lessons about baptism, and I remembered the baptisms of my younger children, remembered the January morning when Snowman had his turn and a bagpiper happened to be playing, remembered the Labor Day weekend of Light Princess's baptism and the next Senior Pastor carrying her up and down the aisle, as was his custom. Pageants, the first Children's sermons I ever did, for that matter the first sermons, joys and griefs, more music than I can remember, #1 Son's Confirmation, my ordination–all happened in this space. Somewhere in that sanctuary is a Bible given in memory of my mother, somewhere in the music library an anthem in memory of my son.
No wonder it spells c-h-u-r-c-h for me. No wonder.
We go about "interpreting every day the gospel according to us," said the preacher. Other experiences have formed and informed me, and I give a different kind of sermon than I heard this morning, but I hope whatever I do I send people away with the sort of Good Word I took to ponder in my heart this day.