Thursday, January 27, 2011

Church

The Rodeo Church--"Miserable" (mp3)

In the grand Southern tradition, I attend church twice a week--on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. The difference, I suppose, if there is one, is that in neither case do I attend a Christian place of worship. When I do make it there, that is the third service I attend that week.

From Merriam-Webster:

Definition of
CHURCH
1: a building for public and especially Christian worship
2: the clergy or officialdom of a religious body
3 often capitalized : a body or organization of religious believers: as a : the whole body of Christians b :
denomination c : congregation
4: a public divine worship
5: the clerical profession

I have to stretch things a bit to make any one of these official definitons work. I can fit the "public"and the "body or organization of religious believers" kind of work, especially with "religious" meaning "scrupulously or conscientiously faithful," though I also believe that there is "devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity." More the ultimate reality than the deity. If the institution we work for becomes a deity, we're in even bigger trouble.

The two churches I attend on a regular basis could not be more different. The first is with my dad at Panera, a gathering of two friends who are not especially like-minded. My dad is about as conservative as it gets, except religiously, so we have some common ground. We are able to agree that Conservative Christianity has no business in politics (or in endorsing the Avetts) and we are able to agree that our government is mostly broken, and so we are able to find some common ground. Where we cannot agree is on anything related to Obama or specific policy. And, yes, we've both delivered a fairly-heated sermon or two. But, really, I'm not sure this is what we're about. Sitting in that Panera, Sunday after Sunday, we see the same people come and go, the family with the two boys who spend the whole time on their computers with their headphones in their ears while their parents read the paper, the older gentleman who seems to know so many others there and makes his social rounds. We nod at them, occasionally share a word. We have all been there enough Sundays that we know that we are a part of something, that we share something, amorphous as that is.

There is a calmness to those Sunday mornings and their routines. My dad is always early, part of his military training, and I am always late, part of my rebellion. We bring each other things--homemade baked goods, cut-out coupons, golf balls and other odd items he finds in his early morning walks around the mall. We remininisce about my mother and the early years of our family. We remark on the changes that come with age. It is an ongoing story. Come 11 o'clock, we both realize that we've had enough, that there are other things to do,

Wednesday nights are spent with co-workers, so you can imagine where the conversation tends to drift. Work, work, work, work, and work. But not just grim work or frustrating work. It is a place and time to unload the funny stories of the day and week, the idiosyncracies of co-workers and the foibles of bosses, the lack of self-awareness in the blowhards and the ridiculousness of policies and decisions (even ones that we've made),the bathroom habits and exhibitionist tendencies of those with whom we spend our days. And like any good Sunday school, we take the scripture of the week, the theme the year, and subject it to intense analysis and discussion. We argue. We bring each other down. We taunt and support. Oh, yes, given the license, we could fix this school. We could do great things with it, smart things to it. Or, you could reach in that refrigerator and get me another beer.

But know this: these two meetings each week are as essential to my well-being as any kind of structured, institutionalized, legitimized spiritual renewal that you can imagine. Isn't that what church is supposed to do?

"Miserable" by the Rodeo Church is a great, upbeat pop song!

6 comments:

gefilte fish king said...

Jewikileaks is reporting that at least once a week you've actually been attending synagogue. What you describe fits the definition of a minyan, the required quorum of Jewish worshippers at a temple and there apparently was a menorah present once. That thin wafer taste a little funny? That was no body of Jesus--you've been matzohed!

Bob said...

Nice alias, Trout.

troutking said...

I thought about anonymous but apparently that's both taken and frowned upon.

Billy said...

While I respect your decision to call the Wednesday gathering "church," I refer to it as "pre-church," because it is the beer and the banter that provide me the ability to survive the actual real church experience that follows my departure from "pre-church."

One event feeds my soul and my spirit and my heart, and the other event involves the church I attend... (ba-dump-kssh!). Sure, that insults my church, but I feel OK with how God sees it. He's got lots of bigger issues with me than whether I enjoy choir practice as much as I should.

cinderkeys said...

Oh my god. "Miserable" is the catchiest, happiest new song I've heard sing "Flowers in the Window" by Travis. Must buy. Thank you.

cinderkeys said...

Er, SINCE "Flowers in the Window."