Worship at Shiloh Community Church. Inside the 150 year old stone church practiced musicians, ears tuned to each other, hearts tuned to God, usher worshippers into an anteroom of haunting music that emanates from the drone of a cello, the legato of a viola, and melodic minor tones of a flute. The regular who plays the violin is on a business trip so the viola has to stretch a bit.
The trio for Friday evening’s Taize service feels their cheeks warm with effort and the flicker of candles, the sole source of light but for the street light that races through the rain and enters the building through the high windows above the nave. That light reflects on the uplifted faces of the worshippers who blend their voices in a rhythmic tapestry of ancient themes:
The Lord is my light
It’s the rhythm of worship – song and silence,
My light and salvation
Inclining hearts in prayer, drawing souls to meditation,
In God I trust
Active listening, quiet contemplation,
In God I trust.
It is special time to process a busy work week and let it go, sacred time to anticipate the weekend – a different busy, some special joy – time to exhale cares, breathe in blessings.
Outside the wind scrapes dirty fingernails across the window glass. Inside the worshippers pull coats and sweaters around their shoulders, adjust scarves and enjoy sock warmth that protects their feet from the cold stone floor. Although tonight’s worship encourages private reverie they draw warmth from each other. They sit in two rows facing the musicians who stand in the chancel. There are ten of them, counting the three musicians and the worship leader.
Across the rain soaked boulevard a boisterous crowd revels at a rock concert at the civic auditorium. The Shylocks are playing their new release, A Pound of Flesh, in a sellout performance. Every note is amplified to produce an intense physical sensation in the fans. The rib knocking reverb simulates an explosion in an empty cave. For some, the thrill is enhanced by a cocktail of designer drugs that may impel them to new heights of appreciation or they may implode like coal miners when the blast takes an unanticipated turn and cuts them off from life forever.
The Shylocks amp up the action, strobing the crowd of thousands with lyrics that stimulate a naked desire for redress:
Spurned and treated like a dog
Thrown a pound of bloodless flesh
Revenge, I will have my revenge!
The heat rises. The fans sweat and sway and pound their fists in the air. Then, Pow! The auditorium explodes in darkness. The sound dies as abruptly as if it has been garroted by an amp cord. The power in the city has gone out and the backup generator has failed.
There is no help for it. In panic and confusion, the fans grope for anything that will guide them through the blackness, out into the street. Tomorrow’s news will report seven deaths, bodies crushed in the melee, souls swept away in the brain fry of a bad recipe for rapture. There will be a call for safer venues, stricter regulations, better protection, more dependable power grids.
For a time before the shivering crowd disperses, the only light for miles comes from three candles shining through the windows of the Shiloh Community Church. The only warmth emanates from the hearts of the worshippers unaware of the chaos in the street. When they watch the morning news they will wonder why no one thought to seek shelter in the church. They will learn from late reports that EMTs carried the bodies of the dead across the street and laid them on the pews to wait for transportation to the morgue. It seemed fitting.
He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Luke 20:38
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