A high, sharp whining sound startles me from sleep. It takes a few moments of confusion and fright, but Iím able to remember where I am. I canít help but smile ruefully. I know full well where I am. Iím always here. Where else would I be?
Itís dark and cold again. I should be used to it by now. Thereís enough light from the street for me to see the shadows of the pews and faded paint of the ceiling mural. A sorrowful pain slowly travels through me. I would still be asleep if the police hadnít raced by with sirens howling. I should be used to that, as well. But, there are some things that I can never get used to. My first priest, Father Gabriel, used to say that was a good thing. I can still hear his low, gravelly voice bounce across the pews.
ďGetting used to something means youíve accepted it, my people. And you had better hope that itís something worth having as a part of your life. Because if itís not, you had better fight it while you still have the strength and the will to do so. OtherwiseÖĒ
He always ended his sermons that way, leaving them on the edge of their seats. The looks of confusion on their faces worried me. What if they didnít understand? But soon the acknowledgement of his message would come through and they would nod. I can still see his slow shrug, wide smile, and his slow, halting walk. I canít help but feel warmth from that man all these years later. He was the first, but not the last.
I used to feel so powerful; as if I was the one they were coming to see. Each and every Sunday, they would come. It didnít matter if I was before hundreds of people or a dozen, which happened so often in those final years. It was the Message. As long as someone was there, sitting in those ancient and beautiful pews, listening and believing, I was happy. I felt needed, as if I had something to do with it. I canít help but feel foolish now. Nevertheless, I long for those days.
I can handle the cold. During the roughest times, when money was tight and the furnace would be broken, my veins would feel frozen and stiff. But, they would still come. Not many, of course, but as Father Flynn used to say, ďThere is strength in numbers, even if that number is two. All that matters is that those two are focused in the right direction.Ē
He had a particularly strong grip, Father Flynn. He would grasp my edges so tightly I would squeal. Initially, I thought it might be the typical nerves of public speaking. But, I soon discovered it was simply the strength of his belief and resolve coursing through him.
I have so many memories of people who stepped up and rested their hands, arms, and even the entire upper half of their bodies upon me. I can remember them all. Not their words, of course. There are simply too many of them to count. But, I remember the emotions that would pour from them.
Iíve been pounded on upon, feeling the waves of anger and desperation rattling through my hinges and screws. Iíve felt every feathery touch of those who were so nervous they could barely speak. The tears of so many surviving family members and lost friends have landed upon me. Iíve smelled waves of various perfumes and colognes and the most powerful scent of them all, sweat.
Those days are long gone. The halls of my home have been empty for countless Sundays. What I miss most is the bravery, the need to speak, to be heard. I miss the feeing of importance, of vitality, of belief.
No one comes here anymore. Perhaps no one needs to. Though, I canít really see how that could be. After all, what could be more important than worship? Even if everyone suddenly believed, wouldnít they still come here to glorify that fact?
Surely, the opposite couldnít be true. Wouldnít there still be believers? Thereís always been those few who have fought, who have spoken, who have inspired. Where are they now? Iím still here. I can still stand proud. I can be cleaned. I can be leaned upon. But, there must be someone to stand behind me. Even more importantly, there must be those to stand in front. And listen.
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