Sunday, September 5, 2010
Do "Thee" Have Church There?
-Sunday, August 29th
Port St. Lucie, Florida
I told my kids, Fiona and Finley (ages 6 and soon-to-be-5), we were going to church. Fiona asked, "Are we going home to Spokane?" I told her, "No, they have church here in Florida, too."
"Oh," said Finley, "Do thee [they] have church in every world?" Yes. "Africa, too?" Uh-huh. "New Zealand?" Yes, they do. While I don't know much about the denomination I've grown up in (The Episcopal Church in the U.S., part of the Anglican Church worldwide), I do know you can find this particular version of church in nearly every country. According to Wikipedia: "...With over eighty million members the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church." That means the kids and I should be able to find old and familiar just about anywhere, even though we could never replicate the history and love we share with members of our home parish, St. John's Episcopal Cathedral in Spokane.
Why does it matter? For one thing, because we'll be on the road for so long, we'll need faith communities along the way. A year-long journey does not a beach vacation make. And even for those of us whose knowledge of the bible, theology, philosophy, etc...can be measured in pinches and teaspoons, church is grounding. It's a place where they have to take you in. Last week, at St. Andrew's Episopal in Ft. Pierce, Florida, I sang the same hymns, said the same prayers, listened to the same bible verses as I've heard since I can remember. One of the lessons (from Hebrews 13) talked about hospitality, which is something we've received in bulk since Sean got sick last September. We're especially reliant on hospitality during our travels. The verse includes these words: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it..." We are neither strangers to those who've hosted us, nor are we angels (just ask anyone who's spent more than 5 minutes with Finley, or with me, for that matter), but still, I have witnessed Christ-like love from so many people, the verse holds special meaning.
The priest during his sermon talked about a church he'd visited (incognito) where no one welcomed him. He said he later shared that story with others who'd remarked they'd sat in that same church (those folks were all talking about different parishes). His point was that we've all entered the non-welcoming church, and who wants to be part of that? The 60-or-so worshippers at St. Andrews applauded their visitors (us), which may be something they do routinely.
Even in a new place, some things remained the same: the kids drew on the church bulletins during the entire service; they trotted to the back of the aisle to deposit a dropped quarter in the collection plate like they knew what they were doing; they eagerly sipped communion wine and then told me they, "...didn't get a big enough drink."
The kids were delighted to learn St. Andrews also had post-service cookies (Oreos and apricot danish). An elderly member, trying to be helpful, pulled away a nearly-finished pot of coffee and spilled about a half-cup of hot liquid on my hand (no harm done). An 8-year-old girl shared her bendy bracelets with Fiona and Finley. Two other church members inquired, with genuine interest, about our travels.
We drove a half-hour in a rainstorm because my worship/community tank was running a bit empty. Why I would seek comfort in church is still a mystery for me, one to explore another time, since I have a bone (an entire skeleton) to pick with God, but I digress...
Thank goodness I could refuel in a new, yet familiar place. Thank goodness the people inside were gracious. You never know when the stranger will come to your church/workplace/soccer team. I pray we all find a heart for hospitality.