Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)
TITLE: In The Stillest Hour
By Jan Ackerson
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The visitor enters, and pauses just inside her silent doors. Although the church has been empty for several hours, an aroma lingers in the air; the visitor takes a few steps with eyes closed and arms outstretched, reveling in the fragrance as it clings to his face, his shoulders, his hands.
A smile crinkles his eyes as he enters the darkened fellowship hall. There are thousands of echoes here, and he hears every voice. He remembers every gathering in this room, the clink of every spoon, the click of every slide. With a surge of love he wades through the century of memories, gathering up whispers of laughter.
Now he moves into the Sunday School rooms, with the eager faces of generations of children before him. He has memorized each freckle and curl, each gap-toothed smile and scabbed knee. His heart fills up as he listens--in the same span of time at which light captures dark-- to every story ever told here. Hundreds of children have lisped his name in these rooms, and as he visits each corner, he cherishes them all.
His steps take him next into the sanctuary, where he stops for a moment to gaze at the large wooden cross dominating the platform. He remembers…
And now the air pulses and swells with music, glorious music, in tempos both quick and slow, in major and minor keys. His people are singing for him, past, present, and future. The music is both hushed and loudly joyous, at once a capella and accompanied by strings, brass, drums. Each note is precious to the listener’s ears.
As he approaches the altar, he lingers at each pew, hearing through the ages all the words of comfort or encouragement ever spoken there. With great tenderness he thinks of each person by name—man, woman, and child, senior citizen and infant.
At the pulpit he stops to listen with joy to a thousand sanctified sermons.
Finally, the visitor stands at the altar, where myriad prayers have ascended from countless earnest lips. He watches as the shadows of innumerable petitions and praises rise heavenward, and he remembers each one. He walks the length of the altar, remembering too the prayers that are yet to come, and shedding blessing from his fingertips.
His benediction now settles into every niche of the church, and he steals silently away. The little brick building stands serenely beneath the stars. It is the stillest hour of the night.
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