So, after a door-slamming row with the spousal unit last night, I got up this morning and decided to do something I had been considering for some time: walk up to the church on the corner for the early morning service.
It is true that I believe if one is so inclined, one can “meet God” anywhere. But if one wishes to meet people, one has to show up places.
This was really an act of following my heart.
And what a day for it! Pink graced the sunrise beyond the snow-laden evergreens. Hardly a soul was to be seen at this hour.
I have a long and colourful history with faith-based institutions, not all of it is pretty.
I could have gone in, elbows out, in my punky finest, but that didn’t suit me today. These are good people trying to do good things. I felt I should go in gently. It would be kinder to them.
But I didn’t want to put on an “acceptable suit.” I still wanted to be my authentic self. So, yes I wore my mismatched earrings with the Bajoran-esque ear cuff and chain, my rib cage and gem heart necklace, and my winter cloak. (Yes, Winter is Here, never mind Coming).
I chatted with one old chap in the parking lot as I arrived. Friendly enough, though I got the sense that talking to someone in a winter cloak was a bit of an adventure for him. He braved it well.
I have been considering where to move next on the employment journey and it occurred to me that I could do some meaningful volunteering if nothing else.
Who was the guest speaker this morning? The director of a charity known as “Inn From the Cold” that helps shelter homeless families!
I have always been one who loves things of a restorative nature, be it books, houses, furniture or lives. Inn From The Cold’s aim is to help stop homelessness before it happens, but also to be there with all the tools when it does.
This seemed a good fit. I am actually excited about the prospect. But I am one who gets excited about many things, so I opened up to God to hear what He’d like me to say, if I spoke to this speaker person.
Two key words came to mind in the form of a question: “Can use a writer, or maybe a volunteer?” It was kind of freeing to speak it. Writer is what I am. Volunteering is what I am willing to do, what I can do. I don’t need to reconstruct a new self to be of value somewhere. She invited me to have tea, take the tour, and talk more.
This church is of the more formal variety, with ministers in robes, and candles on the altar table. The liturgy (the script, if you will) was printed in a little pamphlet and had all the bits from the various books identified by page number and book colour. I though this was very thoughtful of them.
I still managed to muff the stage directions for the Communion ceremony as in this church everyone walks up to the front and kneels for it. The row filled up and I had no spot to go to, but the usher (in her Hogwarts jacket!) was quietly helpful.
When I entered, I noticed they had Kleenex boxes situated at various locations on the benches. I had no particular inclination to tears this morning, in spite of last night’s row, but chose a spot nearby one, just in case.
I was treated to a flow of beautiful words, both contemporary and historical, a favourite “chorus” or short song, (“They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love”) from my childhood, and an old time hymn, which I loved. Touch after touch seemed to say, “This is your place.”
The sense of tranquility in that place was welcome, though the prayer of Confession (not as horrible as it sounds) did make me cry, not for any scourging properties, but for the words in it that were all my words, stunningly specific to my life.
There was also the traditional Lord’s Prayer. This was the thing that really started the tears because the last time I heard it was at work, in my former job, in our little circle of four.
One of the things the abrupt ending of my employment caused was the tearing away of my one circle of fellowship. I don’t grok with traditional religious institutions very well, so my only time to be with those of like mind in spiritual matters was at work. We would meet every Wednesday and talk about life, work, and say the Lord’s Prayer at the end.
The one who led it was the one who fired me. Laid me off. Whatever.
To hear that prayer again stabbed, a fresh sense of loss.
It is what it is. I try not to let pain make me hate.
After, I met a gal by the name of Jen, an empty-nester who likes to volunteer a lot here and there, and we chatted over tea and cake. I learned that her family hails from Norway, one of the travel destinations on my “to see” list, the other being England.
The tea server was a fun lady by the name of Anse (“Just ask a question, and you will get the Anse!”) who also has a passion for travel and England (!) I met their spouses (Cam and Daniel, respectively).
Then some lady with gorgeous blue shell earrings came up and asked me if I was “Lisa.” (The door usher had asked me if I was “Louise” the guest speaker, when I entered. The day of mistaken identity, I guess!) I said no. She complimented my necklace and ended up taking a pic to show her son, who makes jewelry.
Everyone in the circle laughed at this oddity, pretending this was their standard practice to photograph new attendees. Made me smile.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable time, with no pretense on my part. And that in and of itself was a relief.
I might do Advent with these folks.