Monday, May 25, 2009

The Last Worship

Yesterday, my sister was in town with two of her daughters and husband. We went to the church we grew up in with my mom. I hadn't focused on the significance of this worship service until I stepped into the brick building. It was the last worship service in their "old" sanctuary, and next Sunday will be their first worship service in their new sanctuary.

The walls were the same cool, federal blue of my youth, with enormous crown mouldings and window trimmings all painted white. White pews with natural cherry trim sat in two neat rows down the length of the narrow hall. The same red carpet lined the middle aisle floor leading up to and blanketing the three steps & stage where the altar sits, flanked by the white choir boxes.

I sat in the pew between my husband & son, with my sister's family all in row beside. Behind the altar is a huge picture window that frames a stately, old oak tree just outside. This is the same picture window & oak tree I would look out at when only six years old, trying not to bust out laughing during serious parts of a service. Like when the ancient little , old lady sang her serious soprano parts, and it sounded like scratchy cackling. She would remind me a hysterical cat caught in a trap. That was really hard to hold it all in.

My parents were founding elders of the Hilliard Presbyterian Church. How had I forgotten that last year on Memorial Day my sister, mom, and I took my dad's ashes to the church yard and scattered them about where the new sanctuary was to be built? The church hadn't broken ground yet that day. The following Sunday a year ago, My mom got her photo taken with her foot on a shovel digging into the earth. There were five widows all lined up, all "charter" members from the 50's, with their shovels, having a historical photo taken. That was last year.

Yesterday, looking out that picture window at the blue of sky, past the faint blue walls, I had a hard time holding it all in. Tears started flowing, a painful knot grabbed my throat, as I thought about my dad. The doxology was sung with purpose, the prayer of confession was spoken with conviction, the old hyms sung heartily, scripture lesson listened to intently. Remembering Dad. Wishing he were here. He would be happy to see every pew was filled full. Every single seat. I know because I looked around. This little church needs a new sanctuary. Visitors won't become regular worshippers there if they feel all squished together with strangers.

My dad stuck it out for over 40 years in that congregation, through all the quarrelling, all the bickering, and stayed there when I felt the place was a dry, sun-scorched land. I asked him once, "why do you go to church there?" I was incredulous he would stay in such a dead little place, or at least it was dead to my tastes. He smiled and softly say, "You know, God told me that I am voice of one crying in the wilderness."

At least he did get to know and work with this present pastor before he passed away. This pastor is a kind, and spirit-filled man who is up to the task to lead a group of Presbyterians.

After the Benedicction was sung, my family walked around the new sanctuary. The ceilings higher. It's painted blue, though. The trimwork white. Instead of red carpet there's laminate fake wood in a walnut color. No organ. Just a grand piano. Lots of big windows look out on the ancient oaks and ash trees. Then I remembered... we were walking on Dad's ashes! I pointed to some trees and told my son what Grandma and his Aunt and I did last year. I told him how I got a little carried away and went around to many of the trees that I loved so much to spread his ashes. He asked if we had asked permission to do that. I said, "I don't think so. So, don't talk too loud."

Then I noticed that my tears had dried up, the pang in my soul had let go. Some joy came to my step as I walked about the room.


  1. i like this, i always loved that sanctuary, I used to pictured myself getting married there.

    Oh, and when I say "my mom's old friend larry" i don't mean my mom's friend larry who is old. I mean my mom's friend larry who she has known a very long time.

  2. oh and why does your profile say "...and the winner is!" did you win something?