Monday, April 02, 2007

small town Sunday: the charm of foibles

Palm Sunday in Green Mountain Falls. My friend Carrie came with me this time. It allowed me to sort of watch the church service with new eyes again, as is usually the case when aware that the person next to me is doing so. Everything about it endeared me as much as ever.

In most other churches I’ve attended, have grown accustomed to a praise band, often times a recording quality one. In Green Mountain Falls, the choir sings their praises from a small choir loft, wearing blue and white choir robes. It is not polished, and far from recording quality. There are a lot of wrong notes, and there are moments of sweet harmony. It’s beautiful. Equally beautiful is the sound of the congregation trying to navigate the melody of some obscure hymn. I do not know who chooses the music, but they seem to have an affinity for the hymns which no one has ever heard before.

The children’s sermon is never void of hilarity. This week, the pastor was trying to drive home a point about courage, and began by asking about things the children might be afraid of: the darkness, scary stories, that sort of thing. When he asked if they were ever afraid of creepy sounds at night, a rather verbose girl spoke up: “Well, I do have mice!” The pastor chuckled. “Oh, you have pet mice?” She does not have pet mice. She has mice that live in the walls of her house, and when they scratch at night, someone has to hit the walls to scare them away. As she cheerily passed this information on to the entire congregation, we all sat laughing, at the same time feeling great sympathy for the parents whose poor living conditions were being exposed to anyone they might ever have wanted to have over for dinner.

Many more winsome qualities marked my moments in that sunny back pew. The old man who read the Scripture passage for the morning had a funny voice and read with many a pause for emphasis. During communion, another old man stood holding the bread and chalice, his aged hands trembling as he offered me the body and blood of his Savior. During the sermon, the pastor poked fun at the quirks of liturgy, and at the awkwardness that can come with the weighty silence of the call to confession.

Afterward, we all gathered in the fellowship hall to raise money for missions by dining on soup, salad, and homemade bread. I discussed seminary with a woman next to me, an elderly member of the PEO with a wonderful British accent. While up to get seconds, or to grab a cup of lemonade, I found that I am able to greet several people by name now. On the way to not feeling new, you know. At some churches that takes a year to accomplish.

As we discussed all the charming foibles of small town church life, Carrie put it perfectly: The imperfection of things there at that tiny church—the unpolished music, the outspoken tots, all the quirky moments—have a way of putting you at ease, making you feel as if you don’t have to be perfect either. I think she’s right. It may be more than the quiet streets that bring me rest on a small town Sunday.


Carrie said...

Thanks for letting me be a part of it.

Anonymous said...

I have two comments. First of all, do you remember that we had mice in the walls downstairs in our house in Old Snowmass? They were field mice that came in from outside, deciding our walls were nice and warm when it started to snow. Unfortunately, they were not able to find their way back outside and died in our walls - phew!! After we finally figured out where the stink was coming from, we had to have the sheet rock torn out and replaced. Yuck!

Secondly, I like to think of the imperfection of the small town church service in terms of my philosophy as a music teacher. In days gone by, and in less "developed" cultures, everyone participated musically. Old, young, talented or not, music was a community activity for everyone to feel a part of. These days, in our "advanced" society, people seem afraid to join in singing or dancing or playing an instrument - we compare ourselves to the professionals we hear and see via our amazing technology and judge ourselves to be inferior and unworthy of finding our musical voice. I have always felt more a part of the worship when mistakes were allowed. Doesn't Christ want us to particpate and find our Christian voice - mistakes allowed?

Love you honey - and love your Small Town Sundays,

Olin said...

Your moms got a message. Preach it! Get the congregation singing! It makes me so frustrated when people don't sing. It's especially noticable if your in the center of a whole bunch of em' at a large church - then you feel wierd for singing. Ain't it great we don't have to be perfect and we can just sing, off key, with all we've got and make a joyful noise! God is enough, we have our hope and trust in that and the work he did to save us (from our own foibles)