When We All Meet Again
Let it come my love my truest,
Let it sail on silver wings.
Life’s a twinkling that’s for certain,
But it’s such a fine thing.
There’s a gathering of spirits, there’s a festival of friends
And we’ll take up where we left off
When we all meet again. Carrie Newcomer, “Festival of Friends”
The Pastor of the Church I attend left our Church last Sunday to take on the job of Austin District Superintendent. This is a promotion within the church hierarchy, although in the Methodist Church they tend to down play these rankings out of the traditional fear that we will look too Romanish. We are all the same before God, except those of us who sin more than others and even we can “get right”.
At any rate, this is the second time this particular Pastor has left a Church I attended and thus the second time I have been disappointed. I will refer to her in this piece as Bobbi Kay which should be enough to hide her identity, lest I embarrass her (or any member of St. John’s United Methodist Church of Austin). I actually think that she may now be entitled to be called Superintendent Jones (not her real name) like those cops on all the English mystery shows my wife watches. They are always Chief Detective Superintendent something or another. On the other hand, she may want to stick with being called “Reverend” which I think probably is more likely to get you a good table at a club.
We had a little ceremony, dictated by the Church, on Sunday in which she forgave us and we forgave her for pretty much anything that happened during her tenure. I’m not sure if this was a blanket pardon since some members were not in attendance and may still have unresolved issues. As mentioned above, this was the second time she has left me and the second time I have forgiven her for leaving me (although the first time I had to say it out loud). I checked scripture to see how many times she could leave and expect my forgiveness. St. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying 70x7 times which means that she is still entitled to at least 488 more forgiveness’s, if my math is right. I say” at least” because some commentators, obviously not fundamentalists, state that the 70x7 was simply a metaphor Jesus gave and that what he meant was that you had to always forgive someone. Indeed, I ran across a few places where he seemed pretty specific about that.
It is hard to lose a Pastor, even when they hang around some as this one seems bound to do since her husband has picked up the stole as it were and is set to become the new Senior Pastor in charge of getting me to heaven. I have always had a lot of issues with Church and any change in something I have become comfortable with upsets my life. My problems with Church started because I so rarely ever attended as a child. My parents had been turned off by the fundamentalism of their youth, something that until his dying day my father referred to as “warped religion”. With no real background as to how to behave in Church, after we were married , my wife allowed me to migrate to very large institutional churches in which I never really had to know anyone or do anything except watch the service and listen to a good sermon every Sunday. That is still the most comfortable way for me to attend church, just like I do the theatre.Sometime in the 70s it became popular at most churches to “pass the peace” which meant that I had to shake hands with someone, but this was at the end of the service and I could often sneak out before we got to that.
For the last few months, however, my view on Church has changed. I have started attending a Thursday night service at the Church which is held in a smallish room that was the Church’s original sanctuary in 1948. This service is different in that the main focus is music, old time gospel and newer hymns, and has a band and singers who would fit in comfortably on any edition of “Prairie Home Companion”. Attendance runs from about 35-50 or so every week which pretty much fills up the little sanctuary. It has made me see a different view of the church, one which Rayda and I have enjoyed very much (and Rayda always did). Sometimes when the group is singing one of the older classics, I get the feeling of what it must have been like to go to a small church circa 1935, and how much comfort that would have given to people during the hard times. It seems to me that that of late I have started to understand the old time roots of American Protestantism and appreciate more the strength and power of a tightly held belief in a community which feels like you do, and is always willing to support you. It is a nice feeling. It appears to me that this service will continue, perhaps with my old Pastor even showing up once in a while to help out with the singing or preaching. That’s a good feeling. The universal feeling of the Christian church that no matter what happens, we will “take up where we left off when we all meet again” and the certainty underlying that phrase, that somehow and in some way, we WILL all meet again. Can I get an amen ?