I went to church on Sunday for the first time in many, many years. Not everything is as I remembered. Services don’t take place inside the 100+-year-old white church steeple sanctuary, rather they are held in the 1960s-built Parish Hall and outside in the courtyard. Christ Episcopal Church has been Covidized. And the lead minister who’s been replaced several times over since I left the church some 18 years ago, is new. She’s a mum of two twin girls; instead of calling her Father, she’s referred to as Mother. And she’s originally from England. And she reads her sermons rather than speaks off-the-cuff. The music’s new too. I didn’t recognize a one.
But the Episcopal service is the same structure, as are the prayers. Communion is way different: Each parishioner is given our own sealed tiny wafer and a thimble of sweet wine. All sanitary and in plastic kinda like the ginger and wasabi containers that come with To-Go sushi. Environmentally horrendous, but some clever inventor’s $$ meal ticket-response to the pandemic. I doubt that anyone will ever again feel comfortable sharing the Communion chalice; this new fast-food approach to sharing the body and blood of Christ may be here for good.
What drew me back to church is my friend, Mona, who invited me to check it out after I posted my last blog. I’m obviously going through life-changing turmoil and she instinctually sensed I might benefit from a visit to God’s sit-down restaurant.
She was right.
Being in a faith community renewed my faith and brought back memories of the first time I went to the church in third grade having convinced my parents that I needed to go to a house of worship, and then later, after my mom died and my heart was broken. Despite my flakiness, I will always consider Christ Church as my home church, the place I seem to be drawn to when my life is mixed up. Being there yesterday gave me a place to formally say, “Here, God, take this. I can’t carry it by myself anymore.”
Christ Church is a tiny little wooden chapel, a ten-minute walk from Angel Cove Cottage By the Sea. Sweet, not flashy; a building that’s withstood two world wars, various economic collapses including the Great Depression, the zealous tear-down of neighborhoods replaced by 1950s stucco, and a revolving door of ministerial leadership that has, unfortunately, taken its toll on the congregation. But with the new minister, Mother Julie, a USC MBA graduate who’s worked in the entertainment business before heeding the call to ministry, the little church by the bay has a chance to once-again be revitalized. There’s birds singing in the trees in the outdoor sanctuary as the church bells ring and the violinist and pianist use their musical gifts to ease the soul.
So many flashbacks at this church: My dad in his walker, proudly wearing his medals on Veteran’s Day. Katie, who was a tot, and her Sunday School buddies. Father Rob and his growing family. Me, having the freedom to teach Sunday School in a way that reflected my personality and spirit. Me, being able to question, doubt, and grow as a mother, woman and Christian. This historic sanctuary gave me a home where I could be the flawed, creative person that I am. I was loved for being myself and embraced wholly, as was every other parishioner.
Truly, it was a remarkable time and place back in the early 1990s guided by a remarkable leader who allowed each of us to find our own path. No egos. No dictatorship. Christ Church was the People’s Church.
Yes, I have decided, I will go back next Sunday.
It’s Lent, the purple weeks, and from what I remember about this time on the Christian calendar and my own experience over the years, a Season of Tests. Trouble seems to bubble up to the surface. Lots of it. Like waves. Think you handled this crisis, this miserable person, BOOM, here’s another challenge Ms. Smartypants! It’s like two-by-fours hitting you again and again, stunning you, until you are so bruised you instinctually put up your dukes, like the mustached boxer in a black and white film, and shout, “Let me at ‘em, let me at ‘em.” Problem is, for me, my one-two-punches are a waste of energy; weak and unpracticed, I end up falling on my butt.
Confession: I’ve been holding the weight-of-the-world on my shoulders for far too long. I need a lounge chair and tanning oil.
Church seems to have helped, although I’m less than 24 hours from the experience.
But so has movement: I’m on a clean-the-house, get-rid-of-stuff, re-thinking and staging each room, frenzy. Preparing for the unexpected. Preparing for the expected. Preparing for change. I’m in-process mode. And the way I process the unprocessable (because I’m in the middle of it) is to overeat or overdrink or organize, of which I am choosing the later. Organizing equals clarification: Do I need that? Does it bring me joy? If not, thank you and goodbye. And that, quite frankly, is the hard part. It’s where I’m at. Maybe you are too. It is, after all, Lent, a time of reflection, upheaval, and on the other side of it, a glorious Easter sunrise.
I am with you, always, He said, he re-assured, in his darkest hour.
This is a test.
This is a test.
This is a test.
Or as The Byrds’ sang in the 1960s….there is a season. “Turn! Turn! Turn!”