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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Worship (corporate) (10/04/07)

TITLE: More Than Words
By Ann Grover
10/11/07


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It was Sunday morning.

Sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows, creating a rainbow on the altar where the sacraments were ready and waiting to be served to the saints.

The final strains of the hymn faded away as Susan got comfortable in the pew. She took a moment to admire her shoes. What a good sale. I’ve always admired a proper open toe, not too much, not too little. She looked sideways at Ruth’s shoes across the aisle. Now, look at that. Not proper shoes for church at all. Heel’s all trodden off.

Behind Susan, Mrs. Myers closed her eyes reverently and prayed, “God, help Susan settle down during the service. And maybe fasten her top button. Help the ushers remember to put her a few pews back next time so she’s not a distraction to the fine men in the congregation.”

The priest opened his service book and began to read. “The grace of our Lord, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” *

“And also with you,” the congregation responded. “May He fill our hearts with joy. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts, that we may love You and worthily magnify Your holy name. Amen.”

How long has Pastor John been here? Ken wondered as he fingered his silk tie. Twelve, fourteen years? He can barely find his place in the service book. I wonder if he’s even using the Holy Eucharist reading. Doesn’t sound familiar to me. Ken smothered a yawn as he skimmed the bulletin. Same announcements, nothing’s new. Same old, same old.

Pastor John intoned the Creed and the congregation joined in. “We believe in one God, maker of heaven and earth. We believe in one Lord. We believe in the Holy Spirit. With the Father and Son, he is worshipped and glorified.”

A baby wailed and a hum of murmuring circled the sanctuary, but none voiced their displeasure louder than the sigh that heaved from Miss Hillsborough. Babies should be seen and not heard. In my day, they stayed home until they were of an age to behave themselves. Church is not the place for babies, or children, for that matter. I’ll mention it at the next council meeting.

“We confess we have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.

Miss Hillsborough’s companion, Mrs. Simpson, picked invisible lint from her suit jacket and shook her head as Pastor John took his time breaking the communion bread.

“We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.”

Out of habit, Mrs. Simpson responded with the rest, “We are one body, for we all share in the one bread.” She glanced at her watch. Heavens, if he doesn’t hurry, my roast will be shrivelled like an old boot. And who is that man? Imagine someone like that sitting up the second row.

“The gifts of God for the people of God,” Pastor John continued.

“Thanks be to God.”

Pastor John served the bread and wine to his flock, the words “the body of Christ,” and “the blood of Christ” whispered into hesitant hearts, as each member received the sacraments.

“Glory to God,” began the pastor.

“...whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God in the Church forever and ever.”

“Please, turn to our closing hymn.”

“Come, Thou Almighty King,
Help us Thy name to sing,
Help us to praise:
Father, all glorious,
O’er all victorious,
Come, and reign over us,
Ancient of Days.”
**

The music died, the last chord dwindling, absorbed by smoke curling from snuffed candles and smiles suddenly reappearing on somber faces.

“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

“Thanks be to God.”

Pastor John stood by the door, shaking hands as people hurriedly vacated the church.

“Nice sermon,” offered Ken.

“Lovely communion,” simpered Mrs. Simpson.

The baby reached for Pastor John’s gleaming cross necklace, and the aged priest pulled him into his arms. A thin strand of drool stretched from the cross to the pastor’s collar. When the young mother blushed, the pastor smiled reassuringly.

After everyone departed, Pastor John stood alone on the old, stone steps.

Someday, he thought, maybe someday...

______

* The Book of Alternate Services. Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1985.

** “Come, Thou Almighty King.” Words: 18th Century. Music: Felice de Giardini, 1769.


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This article has been read 719 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anne Linington10/11/07
Very well written, and a sad indictment of so much that is called worship. I an visual the "invisble lint" being picked off.
Dee Yoder 10/11/07
Your story reflects our failures, even as we gather to worship, and reminds us why we need a Savior! You pegged several behaviors I know I've been guilty of through-out my church-going years. Well told.
Joanne Sher 10/12/07
What an amazingly vivid portrait of a dead church. Wonderfully descriptive, and convicting! Much to think about here.
Carol Wiley10/13/07
Sad, but oh so true. You handled the characters in a way that got your point across in a great way.
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/13/07
You wrote a very interesting account of what corporate worship too often is and never should be. Well done.
william price10/14/07
Ouch. Very good. Sharp, creative and ministered well. God bless.
Sharlyn Guthrie10/14/07
Well-penned and poignant descriptions. You effectively illustrated the mismatch that so often exists between our thoughts and our words.
Jan Ackerson 10/14/07
Beautifully written, and left me very sad--as it was intended, I'm sure. Masterful.
George Parler 10/17/07
So sad because it's so true. The stench of religion rises from too many of our churches today. I did like the remaining hope in the man of God's voice, "One day . . ." Good job.
Janice Cartwright10/17/07
I read this earlier and thought sure I had commented but now I find I didn't. This is very insightful and sadly, too true. The Laodecian spirit is present in too many of our churches. The Lord calls us to recapture our first love. Good wake-up call.
joe hodson10/17/07
Very creative way to describe religion compared to relationship. Your characters did a good job of getting your message across. Besides a well written piece, one thing stuck out.I was curious as to why Pastor John was referred to as a pastor and a priest. That's all. Great writing. And I love the detail of the church service. I'm convinced that you grew up in a traditional church.
valerie chambers10/24/07
Ann I have but one word that I think best describes all of your writing. ANOINTED!!!