Saturday, September 12, 2020

All Are Welcome by Liz Flaherty #WindowOvertheSink

Last week, I got political in the column. Thanks to everyone who read and responded. To the friends I lost because of a stance I took, I'm sorry to have lost you. I wish you happy.

Regardless of the title above, I'm not going to step further into controversy by talking about religion; however, I am going to talk about church. No, about churches. 

A cradle Methodist, I grew up in the Gilead Church. I say I grew up in it, but quite

honestly I got out of going every chance I got. Eventually I stopped altogether. Over the years I started again somewhere else. Stopped. Went occasionally. Then went and have stayed. Most of the time. One thing I know now if I didn't know it before Covid is that the church is its people, not its buildings. 

But, oh, the buildings. I'm not sure how I would feel about them if I were non-Christian, but I love them. All of them. I've managed to visit at least one in every city I've ever visited. I like the old ones best, the ones where you can feel the weight of centuries of heartbreak and hope when you go through the doors. I am always overwhelmed by the sheer size of the big ones, and usually slide into a pew to do my praying, because once I'm in the pew I'm one-on-one with God again.

In the wayback, when Duane was in Vietnam, St. Charles in Peru kept its doors unlocked--at least during the day--and I used to go in there after work and light a candle for Duane, dropping a dime into the metal coin box on the table. I'd go to Mass sometimes, too. I don't know if it was because I actually preferred the Catholic faith to my own or because I liked wearing a lace mantilla--women all covered their heads then.

At the little church in Ammons, Kentucky where my mother-in-law grew up, the floor used to slope so much on the left side that leaving the church was like doing a mini-mountain-climb. 

The title to this column, of course, is...I don't know, wishful thinking, maybe. Or selective memory. Not everyone feels welcome in every church. Not every church makes everybody feel welcome. There are "Christians" who go to church because they want to be seen there. "Christians" who go to church until they've taken advantage of every avenue of mission open to them. "Christians" who, as Father Hoffmeyer said all those years ago at St. Charles, "Hit the bars, hit the booze, and hit the box [confessional]." He said something else about hitting their knees, but I don't remember it well enough to quote it. There are Christians who aren't Christians. 

But I'm not talking about Christians--or I wasn't; I'm not sure how that paragraph happened. I'm talking about churches. About places of worship regardless of the faith they represent. They are way up there on my gratitude list. In action as well as intent, most of them are places of sanctuary, places where they will feed the hungry and clothe the naked (Matthew 25:40). Places that do indeed open their doors to all. Places of fellowship and worship and acceptance and tolerance. 

It saddens me that so many churches are closed. I'm glad to see some of them being restored and repurposed (thank you, Dave Van Baalen). I don't pretend to know what comes next in religion--I can only take care of my own--but that doesn't make me any less grateful for what I have learned and for the places I've learned it. 

Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody. 

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