Sunday, April 24, 2011
When I started going, this church was small and rather dark with red carpets and subdued lighting. Rather comforting in a wooden cave sort of way. After we'd been going regularly for a couple of years, the building fund amassed enough to start on a major renovation. I hated it. Gone was my little dark church. The whole front altar seemed to have been draped in visqueen for the longest time and this awful chalky dust permeated everything. And then, the wall came down, revealing the new and improved altar. What was the whole of the church became the seating area, and a huge altar area with soaring ceilings and a place for the choir and the acolytes and a big table. A cross hung mid-air, dominating everything. I hated it. Too much light, too much space. How could anyone ever feel at home in this yawning space of white?
Eventually, I did. I took every opportunity to explore every nook and cranny, run my fingers over the keyboards, sit in the bishop's chair and stand behind the podium giving pretend sermons. I poked my nose around to the forbidden space of the sacristy where communion was prepared and all the silverware was kept. I went under the church and discovered a way to crawl up behind the big, hideous screen behind the cross that I could see no use for. I spent a few services back there, watching everything from above and behind that screen and trying not to sneeze because that chalky dust still lived in that secret place.
Today, I went in early. My boy was busily hiding easter eggs for the kids to find after the service and I could have a little quiet time in my church home to myself. As I looked toward the altar, my heart lifted at the sight of the soaring cross, hanging above that giant altar table. The stained glass that rose on one side and arched over the cross to come down on the other side - a dove at the apex, made my heart catch.
Then people began coming in. Ms. Fischer. The Mills Family. Miz Beverly and Miss Charlotte - faces that have been here for as long as I can remember. And the "new" people who are beginning to be my new and familiar church family. Mark and Lou. Omelet Man. Mark and his wife, whose name I still can't quite remember. The couple with the little girl who was baptised my first Sunday back and the visiting aunt and uncle from Virginia who drove down to share Easter with their young niece. It was a full house. An unusual thing for this church that has been struggling for quite a while. I could tell from the grin on Fr. Randall's face that a turnout like this gladdened his heart.
And mine. When I used to come here, it was full to the back pews. Then the beloved priest (the one with the "Edifice Complex" who built this new church) retired and it took a while to find a new, right priest. Then the church split, and there was a terrible breech of trust when an employee embezzeled a great deal of money. It really looked quite dismal for a while. When I started coming back, the last 10 pews were always roped off in an effort to make those who did show up sit closer to the front. Still, it was a sparse crowd. But I've noticed over the last few months that there are more people filling the pews. There are more people in the choir. It's not always the same two people reading the lessons every Sunday anymore.
In a way, this is a real Easter for this church - a resurrection of sorts. From the ashes of discord and betrayal, a new hope is rising. One that I hope will sustain this building and the people who come to populate it for a long time to come.