Sunday, December 11, 2022

I Wasn't Expecting

I haven’t been to church since I relapsed with COVID in May.
  Me and Joe Biden and the paxlovid rebound.  The COVID was not the breaking up of my relationship with “church,” but the fact that my husband left his pastorate.  Shortly after my recovery from the COVID, he slipped off on his 6-week healing tour of the US by car, and I held down the fort.  Mostly I quilted, did some deep cleaning in the house, and enjoyed my Sunday-morning-found-time.  Starting at a new congregation by myself was not something I was up for then.  He wasn’t home very long until we journeyed on our BEST VACATION EVER in Scotland.  He stayed a few more weeks than I did to enjoy a self-funded sabbatical. He was not home long before we were flying off to Connecticut for Thanksgiving.  (My restless leg syndrome is so over flying.)

Then it was time.  I overslept last week.  Seems to happen if you don’t set an alarm.  So this week, I set the alarm, mentally picked out my wardrobe, and went to sleep on a Saturday night, knowing I would be driving down to Eugene by myself to attend church with my beloved’s blessing.  “You cannot join the church the first Sunday you attend” was his only instruction.  I admit, that part of my intent to reconnect to church this morning was mercenary - I have to be a member in a congregation within the denomination to maintain my standing.  I have to have standing to maintain my chaplain certification.  I have to have certification to maintain my job. You see my issue. 

I got there early as I am wont to do and parked in the parking lot across the street from First Christian Eugene. I would do some recon from the safety of my car.  I listened to my romance novel, looked up the church's website, checked on the architectural style of the church and then at precisely 15 minutes before worship was supposed to begin, made my way to the front entrance.  The greeter had their back turned away from the door, paying attention to another conversation, when I entered.  I wasn't up for interaction yet, so I simply grabbed a bulletin from the table behind them and "snuck" into the sanctuary.

I wasn’t expecting . . .

to be interested in the tables at the back of the sanctuary.  I picked up an Advent devotional, turned and saw the co-pastor April. (delightful woman BTW).  My extroversion "forced" me to introduce myself to her before searching for a pew.  The sanctuary sits diagonally, so all pews are curved.  I chose a pew which was completely unoccupied, close in, center.  For me that was enough outside of the box in seating as I was willing to undertake.  Usually, I’m a second pew, left side of the sanctuary sort of woman.  The historian in me began to marvel at the historic 1911 sanctuary.

I wasn’t expecting . . .

the wonder of the rotunda.  Directly above me was an amazing dome with a simple yet spectacular stained glass window at its center. 

I wasn’t expecting . . .

tears.  Bothersome hot tears streaming down my cheeks into my N-95 mask.  

I wasn’t expecting . . . 

to realize that my soul had been missing worship and communion and a purposeful connection with God.  You can only run on automatic for so long.  Oh, every week I have at least a few spiritually meaningful moments for me during a patient visit, but sitting with my head tilted all the way back, staring up, I realized that the next part of my healing needed to be in and with a church.

As the morning revealed itself in this new place, there were more unexpected tears.  Moving songs.  The comedy of the Joy candle falling to the ground - twice.  The excellent message by Zane - endearingly rambly at times but convicting in its call to the congregation and himself to deep spirituality, creativity and hospitality as they dream the dream God has for them and their building.  The Table which almost always produces a sense of the Divine.

I wasn’t expecting . . .

to want to join this morning, not because of a need for standing, but because I really wanted to join.  It felt right.  After grumping about having to start over at a new church for the above mentioned requirements, I realized through unexpected tears and unexpected welcome and unexpected connection, that I still need to belong.  To belong to a faith community. To belong to a rag tag bunch of people who are seeking to figure out where God wants them. To belong to God once more.  I’m pretty sure I’ve found my gang.

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