Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dozing In the Pew

An old bank with granite walls and a towering ceiling is where I spend my Sunday mornings worshiping.  There are drums, keyboards, guitars and a bass, along with an electronic loop melodically and artistically weaving through the songs; some new, and some old hymns with timeless lyrical content.  There is a youthful vibe among the crowd although many different ages and stages of life are represented.  Most of all there is a sense of unity and family, as we seek to love and follow the Lord, and love each other along the journey.

This is quite a contrast to my previous weekend, in Ontario, when I visited the old church where my father occasionally attended Sunday School as a child.  We awoke early, driving out of Ottawa and through the countryside to the smaller town where my dad grew up.  The air was humid and warm and the sky was overcast.  The miles passed with rolling hills and thick patches of trees and brush, sparsely dotted with old farm buildings and some newer homes.  I plugged my ear-buds into my MP3 player and listened to my music, dozing in the backseat along the highway as my brother sped along.  I just couldn't keep my eyes open and felt like it was 5:30 in the morning, not 7:30 because of the time zone difference.

We started with breakfast at my Uncle's house, which was interesting all on it's own considering that I've never really spent any time with my dad's family before.  After a buffet style spread of toast, sausages, bacon, bagels and fruit, we piled into the rental car for a short drive to the local town's church.  My interest was piqued at the sight of a traditional church building on a street lined with all sorts of historical looking structures.

As I approached the open doorway, strains of a familiar chorus and scripture, sung to an unfamiliar melody poured out from the passionate, mostly elderly choir.  My brother and I stuck together, like in the days of our childhood when we accompanied our parents to various adult-oriented events and only had each other for company.   The cavernous ceiling featured a couple dusty, old, 70's style chandeliers and fairly small fans which spun rapidly, having little impact on the circulation of the humid air.  Rich, red carpet paved the way down the centre aisle and across the front of the stage, showing wear from the years of use. 

My brother and I sat ourselves down on the end of a hard, wooden pew and the already warm sanctuary began to rapidly fill with parishioners.  Finally the service began and we sang old choruses that I remember from when I was a child, when my family attended a more traditional church.  Occasionally my brother and I would poke each other, as we relieved our childhood and the days of goofing off (without getting caught) in the serious atmosphere of church.  After a couple giggles from myself, I regained my solemness, remembering that I am an adult now, and I attempted to lose myself in the songs of "long ago".

When the minister began to preach, although the words rang true, I found myself struggling.  It's not that his content was particularly boring, but it was just so dang hot!  I looked back and noticed that the doors, once open to the cooler, refreshing air from outside, were now sealed.  The tall, simple stained glass windows were also sealed shut, and the sunlight shone through, casting red and blue beams of light into the room, heating it further.  With all the humidity, and all the warm bodies, I found myself unpleasantly warm and struggling to keep my heavy eyelids from flickering shut.  I glanced over to my left, where my Uncle sat and noticed him nodding off.  Further down the aisle, and a few more people away from where I sat, my dad was working hard to stay awake as well!  Next to me, on my right, my brother sighed and I saw beads of sweat glistening on his forehead.  He looked like he could use a nap as well, and to keep himself from slumber, pulled out his I-Phone and began to play a game.

The jet-lag, busyness and early morning began to take it's toll on me.  I glanced up at the two small fans overhead that frenetically worked, to no avail.  The preacher's voice faded in and out of my conscious thought and I wished that I had stocked my purse with some chocolate covered espresso beans.  The words spoken were life-giving, but the humid heat hovered like a thick blanket, causing heads to nod - not in agreement, but in fitful slumber.  Finally, as a last resort, I pulled out my little brown notebook (or Brownberry, as I like to call it) and began to write a description of my surroundings.  The act of writing and concentrating on the details around me allowed me to summon the strength to remain awake and somewhat alert.

Suddenly, I was overtaken by hiccups!  I sheepishly tried to hold in the jolting, rhythmic spasms without making any obscene noises.  I could feel the eyes of the elderly seatmates on the pew behind me boring into the back of my head.  If there was any consolation in the situation, I could be thankful that I didn't feel sleepy anymore.  My big brother kept smirking at me whenever he felt me bump into his shoulder, lurching from the force of each hiccup.  An occasional squeaky noise escaped as I attempted to hold my breath, relax and hold back the hiccups so they would stop!  I'm sure my face was red with embarrassment and I was all too happy when the minister called up the choir and pianist to conclude the service with some music.

I can make light of this church experience, yet I was impacted nonetheless by the evident faith and love I witnessed in the believers present.  For example,  I was introduced to a kind, older gentleman named Rod (he was 93), who, half a century ago would drive his car around to different homes in the country, picking up children to bring them to Sunday School.   My father, then living in foster care, was one of those children.  Little did this man know the fruit that would become of his humble ministry.  He would patiently wait for these kids, sometimes even waking them up and giving them time to get dressed so that they could come to the loving and friendly atmosphere of church and learn about Jesus.  This is just one example of a seed of hope and love, planted into a life, that was not in vain.  I saw Rod's face light up with joy at the presence of my father and the realization of the good fruit from his labor.

On this particular Sunday morning in June, as I was smothered by Ontario's humid summer heat, I was encouraged to never underestimate the impact your actions can have on a life.  You never know how much you can affect someone, by the little things you do.  If it wasn't for a man like Rod, I probably wouldn't be here today...

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