Why I Went to Church: Palm Sunday 2012

To say I wrestle with religion is an understatement. Spirituality is a core of my life and I’ve spent a considerable amount of my time on this earth involved in religious practice, reflection… and discontent. But I’m a contrary-minded curmudgeon about most things so it’s understandable that churchiness doesn’t escape my critical vitriol. I have given up LONG ago on the hope that a whole church service could be satisfying; at some point in nearly every service I’ve attended, I have to check out mentally and go to my “happy place” just to retain my sanity. There is no point listing the reasons; they would likely just reveal the shallowness of my soul. The strategy I’m trying now is to keep my senses open to see if there’s any reason to have gone to church. Today, I noticed a couple things:

• The postlude was from Bach Canatata no. 29 and the organist positively rocked it out. Does organ music get much better than Johann Sebastian? (though I say that while tipping my hat at Messien) I stayed in the pew to the very end and even applauded;

• The first Sunday of every month, my denomination celebrates communion, a ritual that still has a fair amount of meaning for me. Today it reminded me of my Mom for whom communion became very significant at the end of her life. As I filed down the aisle to “rip and dip,” I thought of the line from that old hymn “and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.” Yes, I realize that’s not a very Protestant sentiment — sue me;

• But most importantly, a married couple sat in the pew ahead, easily in their late 70’s, maybe 80’s. One of them, I didn’t see which wrote the words “I love you” on a blank space of their bulletin. My heart welled up with joy at that sight, that tenderness I chanced to observe. I don’t know if they have been married for decades — it’s possible — or if they’ve become acquainted recently, but at that moment, one of them wanted to remind the other of their affection. In spring, the sap stirs even the oldest trees. At the risk of being a mere copy cat, I too scrawled the same message on my bulletin and passed it to my partner.

Nope, nothing earth-shattering — No Damascus Road epiphanies, perhaps. But those were three things I would have missed if I hadn’t attended church today.