A Bee in One’s Bonnet

stories 3Who can explain a fixation on attending the Sunday service? A whim that mutated into a yen, a turn, a habit? Go overboard: a hang-up, a compulsion? Could prove your destiny.

You’re early, say ten of ten. A mom, maybe a couple, with a child in tow, scurries around the corner.

Neat, plausible ushers, sometimes a family of greeters, welcome you inside. Accept your bulletin. Meander in, say hellos, shake on that. Find your seat.

The minister works the center aisle.

The choir rehearses bars of a coming refrain.

Q. Is the number attending (high summer or depth of winter) sufficient to warrant conducting the service?
A. Yes, when two or more are gathered. People wander in.

An organ prelude. Neighborly chatting. Join in a hymn.

Speak “opening sentences” responsively.

You may be seated.

Read a prayer in unison.

Recite The Lord’s Prayer.

Welcome to our church. Sign in, we’re homey. Here’s what’s happening.

Pass the offering. Sometimes a soloist sings from above.

Chant the Doxology. How often do we appreciate professing the Trinity?

Time to greet one another. Quick is best.

Share joys and concerns. A first grandchild. A wedding anniversary. A daughter left for college. A neighbor has cancer. An aunt is hospitalized. My sister is sinking. Some time back, a microphone was passed among the pews to facilitate communication but this proved cumbersome. Now it’s your lips to our ears, no augmentation. Hearing-challenged? So solly. We’ll lend you an apparatus. Too lazy or penurious to get a hearing aid, I gave up catching these messages. Doesn’t matter. Over time you’ve heard the run. Cancer, heart attack, broke his arm, slipped in the hallway, had a relapse, my nephew lost his job.

It’s eerie. I scan the crowd, recognize many individually if not closely, recall impressions,  incidents, exchanges, illnesses, disabilities, operations, handicaps, temperaments, judgments, appreciations, fancied slights, granted deserved, you’re shrinking, recite your monologue. In a sense I know  many among our congregants year in and year out, often marginally. At base, hearing precisions of their refrains isn’t consequential. Audited or not, those emanations are half-remembered melodies, love’s old sweet song, music of the spheres. In some endearingly conjectured, manufactured, appropriated sense, we’re in tune. So sing honey, we hear you, you’re family.

Reading from the Bible. The Message.

A hymn, all join.

A benediction. May our lives reflect where our prayers first lead.  What if we have a faulty connection or forgo dialing? Does drifting count? Who’s the judge and who’s to say? Fingers crossed.

An organ postlude pipes at full throttle. We stand transfixed.

Consider the ivory plaque sited next the wainscot of the sanctuary’s north wall,  commemorating the call of the Reverend John Herow, from 1857 to 1878. “With untiring zeal he gave himself to the service of this church.” In this elegantly bare room under Herow’s witness, we join a century of generations past. Meet, greet, announce, party, mourn, sometimes snooze, attend.

The Sunday Morning Service, a delight beyond price, above rubies. Why does anyone deny himself?

James Johnson
August 4, 2016