by Anne Moul
To Those of You in the Back Pew…
There have been more of you recently, sitting in the back pew or along the sparsely populated sides. You look a little nervous, a little uncomfortable. Some of you are young–maybe in your 30’s, perhaps you have a small child or two with you. You’re not sure if this is the right place, but you’re seeking. Something. Maybe you don’t even know what that is yet. Or now that you have children, you need a place for them to learn about God. You’ve passed this lovely old church many times on your way downtown to the farmer’s market or a restaurant and thought to yourself, “Why not give this one a try?”
The people at the door wear dresses and suits and ties, but they welcome you warmly. Worship is more formal than what you may be used to or maybe you’re not used to a church at all. The service starts and ends with a sort of parade with someone carrying a big cross and kids carrying candles and a book covered in gold. There are no screens or electronic instruments, but there is beautiful organ music and a choir that sings well. The service involves a lot of standing up and sitting down and even kneeling. Everyone around you seems to know what to do and you may feel a little lost at times. But the pastor in the colorful robe is friendly and preaches a wonderful sermon and people shake your hand and ask your name and your children’s names and invite you for coffee and cookies afterwards. You walk up to take communion and watch what others do so you don’t embarrass yourself at the rail. You notice that many of the attendees are older but there’s a smattering of young families and a teen-aged boy in the choir and something about this place feels ok, if a little intimidating.
I was one of you once. Twenty-five years ago, I sat here alone in a side pew when I was at a low point in my life. Although I was familiar with the service, I didn’t know a single soul. During the recessional, a lady named Zoe swept by, invited me to join the choir and forever changed my life. These are now My People. This is a good place to be. To heal, to learn, to become a more whole person. To discover a way to better serve God and those around you. Whatever you need, you can find it here. Let this church be as one of our members recently put it, your “Oasis of beauty in a dark and troubling world.”
We are the artisanal denomination, the farm-to-table church. We believe that there is still value in honoring God in some of the old ways. That gracious and reverent worship using beautiful language and beautiful music is important. That for one hour a week, we can set aside our constant need for self-gratification and all things hip, and simply be still and know that He/She is God. And if my observations are correct, there seems to be an increasing hunger, especially among those of you who are young, for calm, meaningful and yes, liturgical worship. The comfort of a quiet, candlelit sanctuary and the rhythm of familiar prayers temporarily erase all the shouting in the world. There is powerful sustenance in the weekly meal of bread and wine. We believe in peace and hope and as our wonderful leader has recently been broadcasting from the rooftops, we believe in love. For all.
So, to those of you in the back pew who are tiptoeing hesitantly into the waters of worship, keep coming back. I know, all this rigmarole in a church service takes some getting used to (ask my husband) and we may be a tad formal compared to our brothers and sisters in the big suburban churches but give us some time. There is a Zoe, an angel, here for every one of you. Who will help you find what you are seeking. This is a good place to be.
Anne Moul is a lifelong Episcopalian and member of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in York, PA. She is a retired music teacher who now happily spends her time writing, and blogs at www.secondactstories.com She has essays pending in the Pennsylvania Music Educators’ Journal and Hippocampus online magazine.