Sunday, November 25, 2012

Going to Church

Outside and inside the church. the peace pole with balloons;
a few banners.


I haven’t been to church in a long time, I mean a church service, so I decided to try the nearby Sylvania United Church of Christ.  I pass it all the time, thinking to myself that I should try it. It's where I vote.  The church itself is a newer building, bricks and mortar, stark and simple, far from the ornate cathedrals of American cities, or Ukraine or Europe or Mexico.  The decorations are simple, a front alter with a plain wooden cross, the organ, and a few banners here and there. The service was simple too; this Sunday the focus was on peace on earth, which I found fortuitous. The pastors were very good and the people were friendly.  I was told by an enthusiastic greeter that this is a transition period for the church, whose long-time popular pastor died a year ago.  A new pastor has been selected and will begin in January.  “We’re run from the bottom up,” he said, “from the congregation up, that is.”  Choosing a pastor is the congregation’s most important task.

I understood, just like choosing a leader in a democracy.  And thinking of elections, in particular the recent one, my mind turned to the nature of the congregation.  As I found a seat and looked around I thought to myself:   I don’t think I would diversify the demographics much, lots of white folks and old-timers, who have been going for years I was told, but there seemed to be a good number of families with kids as well, and the regular church service included a special program just for kids.  One enthusiastic pre-schooler shouted a loud “AMEN” after a prayer, and delighted the entire congregation.

I liked the focus on peace in the world—through the music, scripture readings, talks, and the “Litany for Peace” we all read together.  “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace...grant us compassion...help us address the inequality that breeds poverty....grant us voices to speak for the voiceless, to speak up for justice...teach us to listen and understand...help us fulfill your vision of a peaceable kingdom on earth...”

The message was strong and heartfelt. Universal.  The congregation seemed committed to it, moved by it.  So was I.  There was a sense as well of an openness to and tolerance of different religions and perspectives, important to me.  The younger pastor made a point to talk about compassion and acceptance of all people, no matter where they live or how they believe.  

I’m kind of lazy on Sunday mornings, with my own Sabbath rituals going way back to my working days.  A day of rest!  I seldom went to church in Ukraine either, mostly Russian Orthodox, mostly beautiful works of art and architecture, like a venerable museum.  But going to this simple church  on a cool, sunny morning felt okay; it was a good way to begin the day.  I’ll have to do it again.    AMEN! 
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