So I went to church on Sunday.
I was a bit nervous, I’ll admit.
I planned it perfectly: I had exactly enough time to walk to and arrive exactly on time, not a single minute of awkward waiting before the service started.
Ten minutes from home I realized that I’d forgotten the notebook that is my brain, and since I was continuing to work after church I really needed, you know, my brain. I doubled back to get it.
Realizing that this would make me twenty minutes late, I made a quick plan to take the subway rather than walk the entire way.
The subway is rarely quick. Or at least, not when I need it to be.
Several transfers and long waits later I got off near Atlantic Avenue and hustled down 4th Ave, over to 7th Ave. I was twelve minutes late, sweaty and hot and a little bit nervous and glancing at the rusty “The Episcopalian Church Welcomes You” sign: I’m going to take you at your word on that one.
Those twelve minutes late meant I missed the processional, the Old Testament reading, the Psalm, and most of the New Testament reading. Good grief, these folk tear through their service.
It was good. It was fine. The sermon was hilariously short; barely enough time for my mind to wander and me to pull it back before – wham! – on to the creeds. But the priest said something about the current political situation with Syria, Jesus’ call to take up our crosses, and uncertainty. Sure, I’ll take that.
We passed the peace and I was careful to look in the eyes of those I bestowed peace upon. Nothing gets to me like someone who looks around, glances a spare hand to shake, and is already scouting out the next target while muttering “The peace of Christ” and turning away.
This church had a large cohort of sprinting peace passers. Peace be effing with you too, then. I’ll pass my peace with as much of an attempt at direct eye contact as possible.
The “wine” was white, and I thought, Jesus blood didn’t look like that.
I made a dash for the door at the end of the organ postlude, and the priest stepped very directly into my path. He was backlit. It was a bizarre Easter Pageant “Jesus-is-alive-again!” sort of moment. And he was friendly, and somehow I couldn’t refuse to sign the guest book with my email so that he can get in touch.
So: what’s it like to be back in church?
It’s familiar. The things I like are still there: the words, the songs, the stereotype busybody-usher and super-friendly-old-lady-who-shares-her-hymnbook. The things I don’t like are still there: the aforementioned people who won’t look in my eye when they pass the peace; the PA system that isn’t well calibrated to the massive church interior; the unhelpful hymnbook title abbreviations in the leaflet that make it impossible to figure out what I’m supposed to be singing.
However. I did it. I liked it. I’ll try it again.