I am sitting it church like the good young man (I never was). The pew beneath me is padded and covered with fabric of a course texture. It is twill-like, designed, I presume, to keep the young and old, alike, from slipping onto the floor during the lackluster sermons that bridge the seasons of our many different lives. In the absence of miracle or tragedy, there is simply existence, friendship, the smile of the nearby aging, the antics of the far-away youth, and the faint smell of Potluck wafting from the bowels of God’s station.
I look across from my balcony on the right side of the dimly lit sanctuary, which flows with dark, blood-red carpets, to see a man so fat that, if the raven behind him were to sneeze, he would tumble forward over the polished brass railings, installed to keep the problem children from playing and the tired husbands from resting, and smash the birds below.
I can’t help to think that church is for the old. The lonely. The single. The abandoned. The desolate. They congregate beneath me. Their comb-overs and permanents swept and teased, respectively, into positions marginally acceptable for social presentation. I wonder, when I look across at the fat man and down at the crippled birds, where they look for the hour we sit together and listen to the choir sing and the preacher preach. Who fills the choir? And where do they look? Where does the preacher go when away from here? And where does he look?
I grasp the collection dish and pass it along. The change slipping through the envelopes and checks jangles against the side of the brass bowl. It’s too heavy for a small child or elderly woman. It’s too heavy for me as I pass it quickly without thought.
The sermon begins and I listen for a message, but my mind drifts to a place I cannot name – cannot identify – cannot connect with. This un-namable nothing moves me to tears that I keep in the bucket of my eyes and, in the absence, I hear, but do not comprehend, the stationary chaos. I feel as though I am seeing myself in a multi-generational mirror for the first time. And to see both my beginning and expiration frozen around me (or am I frozen within them?) is, on most Sunday mornings, too much to keep within my own earthly body.
Written from 12:08 pm to 12:28 pm on Saturday, November 13, 2010 at home in Traverse City, Michigan.