CONVERSATION CORNER - NOVEMBER
The editors asked readers to reflect on “When Church Felt Best,” and share their thoughts. Here are a few replies:
Although I have many special moments to look back on (many childhood memories, my wedding, baptisms and First Communions of my boys, etc.), I choose not to dwell in the past. To be honest, just being a part of the St. Margaret's family feels the best to me. I look at it as one long journey and accept that what that looks like may not be the same from year to year. It can be sad to lose events and people from the past, but it is also exciting to try new things and meet new people.
When I picture St. Margaret's, it looks like a photo you would take if standing on Washington Avenue. I see the garden, the rectory, the steeple, the church, the cemetery and the beautiful surrounding property. It is such a beautiful place! All of it is important to me as are all the people who are there. I really cannot picture my life without St. Margaret's and all it includes.
~ Christine K.
When church was best: Robing up for choir on Christmas or Easter Eve, and anticipating the music, the incense, the flowers; feeling both at peace and excited – at one with the happy crowd of worshippers …
Walking through the darkened, empty sanctuary and feeling a comforting presence lingering in the shadows...
Looking forward to coffee hour or an outing with good friends, opening our hearts and sharing thoughts and opinions.
~ Linda A.
Saints. Sometimes they’re on the windows. Sometimes they’re in the pews. Years ago, when I was at All Saints, Sunnyside, we had a caretaker/handyman named Bill Hume. He lived alone on the sixth floor of a walk-up apartment next door, with no phone. Bill was a dignified, unimposing older man with a reserved but twinkly smile. His father, an English butler, had been “in service” on one of Long Island’s Gold Coast estates.
In the not-so-distant past, it was socially unacceptable for servants to worship with those above their station. Bill said he was resentful of this insult to his family and that was the reason he refused to set foot in the sanctuary. Even so, he loved the church; loved our priest, Fr. Bob Wagenseil; and loved the people who went in and out the doors. And the people loved Bill right back.
One cold winter, Bill died. Parishioners wondered if Bill, an only child, would have any relatives at the service. Bill was finally in the sanctuary, getting the full-scale Episcopal liturgy. When Fr. Bob got to the sermon, he said, “I’m glad to say that members of Bill’s family are here with us today.” I remember feeling surprised, and relieved that he really did have people to call his own. Fr. Bob continued, “Look around, because I want you to meet them.” I looked around with anticipation, but didn’t see any new faces in our little church. Fr. Bob continued, “You are Bill’s family.”
I’ve had experiences in churches that were magnificent in other ways, but for me, that one sentence illuminated a lifetime of sermons. A priest once told me, “Saints are the people the light shines through.” Jesus speaks to ordinary, everyday people. He uses examples of pain, choices, shared struggles, and shared joy. I know I was touched by joy looking at all the extraordinary, ordinary saints in my parish, living the New Commandment:
“Love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
~ Barbara H.
Peak moments come infrequently and are framed by the usual round of the habitual and the dutiful. Church for me is at its best when it arrests the numbing sameness of every day so that real daylight shines through.
Three memories were defining moments for me … Being a young teenager and stepping into an empty church filled with the aroma of incense after a High Mass. Sitting in a pew and watching the smoke still rising in faint swirls. Feeling fully present, watching and feeling the mystery … More recently, as a lector, reading the lessons and being swept away into a timeless space of emotion and joy … Singing a hymn and getting caught up in the music and words, feeling grateful and really alive.
I’ve come to see all of the moments wrapped around these peak times as preparation for the ones that stand out. For me. the key to finding more of them is spending more time in real silence.
~ Anton A.