I walked into the Renew Sunday School Class five weeks after Mary Lou and I last attended. The class spontaneously broke into applause as I hobbled in with my cane. It turns out they had all signed a get-well card before I arrived that they planned to mail to me this week. It was good to be back among these concerned friends that look out for each other.
We then made it to the traditional service at Auburn United Methodist Church that starts at 11:00 am. It was the last service for the interim choir director Dale Peterson. The choir members work very hard each week to bring worship in song to the congregation, but I think they wanted it to be especially perfect this week in appreciation for Dale. They did not disappoint.
The first choral music was “Come Dwell in Solomon’s Walls”. I was struck by the words called for those listening to come and dwell in a place where wisdom and righteousness, and justice and holiness join at the feet of God. I do not often applaud at the end of a worship song, believing that it is not a performance, but rather a message. This combination of words and song made me want to stand and cheer.
Sunday was All Saints Day where the church recognizes the members who have passed away in the previous year. The list was long as the names and pictures of 43 individuals flashed across the screen. These people, along with the list of those we know and love outside the church, have joined the heavenly saints.
The question was posed of “Who do you miss the most?” I am sure I could never narrow that down to one person. I certainly miss my dad, whose lessons continue to guide me to this day. I miss my grandparents who were such a huge part of my life growing up. I miss my aunts and uncles, who are all gone now, and scores of friends and family who were part of my life and, for better or worse, made me who I am today.
It is a special day when you remember all those saints, living and dead, who have influenced you and loved you. I miss them all.
The children’s message was especially poignant, with a bare branch being held in front of the children. Leaves, each representing a member of the church who had passed away, were later added to the tree, helping the children to understand they also have a faith family tree as well.
We had communion, open to all believers, that always touches my heart in a special way. Just to be able to walk to the altar with a cane reminded me of how fragile life is. The long lines that passed me on their way to receive the symbolic body of Christ reminded me once again that I am not alone.
I shook hands and received hugs from those that had missed me. It was more therapeutic than the pills and shots I have received over the past few weeks. It was indeed good to be in the House of the Lord.
I understand there are many paths to be able to sit at the feet of God. Many Christians do not even regularly attend church anymore. Some use technology to worship, which is fine. We often focus on the little that we disagree on, while we ignore the majority of what we share in common.
I am aware that most of the world does not believe like me. Some do not believe at all. Some prefer to worship in the privacy of their own home. Some will make their way to church on Easter and Christmas. There are many other religions whose teachings I respect and whose traditions I honor.
But on this Sunday, for me, I was simply reminded of why I find attending church in person to be so fulfilling. I was surrounded by caring friends. I was uplifted by music and song. I was inspired by those who went before me. I was encouraged by the children who are our hope for the future. I was challenged by a message. I found a peace that I did not expect, on a day when I was simply trying to make it to church.
Some days I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. You have probably felt that at different times in your life. This Sunday that Holy Spirit was waiting for me on the pew. He knew I was coming that day, and He waited just for me. We enjoyed the wonderful service together.
That is why I attend church.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com