I could be in church right now. This very moment. The church I go to has services between 10:45 a.m. and 12 p.m. and right now it’s just minutes before that starts. It’s just a mile or two away. It’s the church I went to when I was young. It was my mother’s church. But I am not there. Instead I am here at home sitting outside on my patio writing about not being there. You’d think if I wanted to think at all about church I’d be there. There are many things to enjoy about attending church, and I am not talking about eating out at Taco Ole afterwards. When I think about this I picture my mother saying “Writing about church is not the same thing as going to church, Roberto”. Yeah, mom, I don’t think it is either.
Not that I am a big church goer. I am not and never have been. If I had a dollar for every time I went to church in the last year I might be able to buy a couple of burritos at the corner Circle K convenience store (they are 2 for a dollar, so yeah). Maybe. But I am not crazy enough to believe I know better than people of faith or down right dumb enough to discount any of it just because I demand proof of anything. That is just arrogant.
I don’t know, and never have known, both what makes me go to church or what keeps me from it.
Like most of us I went when I was young because I had no choice. And like most of us I have kind of wandered back and forth from it ever since. At 55 you’d think I’d have had enough time already to decide yes or no on staying or going. But I haven’t and I don’t see that decision coming any time soon.
My times away from it notwithstanding, I do like this particular church. It’s called El Mesias United Methodist Church and it’s in my hometown of Mission, Texas. I guess it’s a relatively small church compared to others I have seen in the city, but certainly not the smallest. Currently the church is in the care of a female pastor. I don’t know if it is the first female pastor it has ever had but certainly the only one I remember. I like her. She is kind and compassionate and I hear her love and concern for her congregation in her voice every time I have heard her speak. Her sermons (are they still called that?) are interesting and timely. I was most impressed during one of her sermons right around Easter when she said “I don’t have the answers for you.” I was so used to church leaders believing they were the beginning and end of all knowledge. Her honesty was refreshing and it made me trust her that much more.
Over the years I have been to others and have not quite felt the same way about them as I do about this one. There could be any number of reasons for that. It could be I just like mine for its familiarity. Or maybe all those other churches just suck. I really don’t know.
Sometime back I attended the church of a neighbor friend of mine at his request. It lasted 2 and a half hours and no less than 3 different people took to the pulpit to give a sermon. On that particular day they preached about the evilness of money, all the while a phone number was blinking on a screen behind them that we were encouraged to text so that we could forward as much of that evil money to them as we could by debit or credit card. Toward the end there was a lot of crying and looking up at the ceiling and asking for forgiveness for our untold sins and people lined up to be cleansed of those sins by the one of the pastors laying hands on them. Chairs were set up behind what I assumed were the ones already known likely to be “thrown” by the holy ghost so they could be sat down without injury. It all felt a little staged to me.
My neighbor swears by it though. He goes twice a week and sometimes more. But, he is a republican and Trump supporter and therefore cannot be trusted to make rational decisions. On the other hand he does have a boat and invites me fishing often. I hate these moral dilemmas.
I’ve always liked churches themselves. The buildings. Ever since I was little they have made a big impression on me. The large crosses, high ceilings, long pews, bibles and hymn books, all these things caught my eye. Especially, and I think this is true for most people, the stained glass windows always interested me. When I was little I would stare at them almost the entire time I was sitting in church not listening to what the pastor was saying. Something about the sunlight coming through all those holy figures that gave them some sort of validity in my eyes back then. Not so much now, but they are still beautiful.
But I missed church today. Just as I did the last 3 or 4 times. In my defense I skipped Taco Ole on those days too. That has to count for something. It just has to. Right?
To be continued…..