I was ready to bolt out of there when a grandmotherly type must have seen the confused look on my face and asked me if she could help me find someone. I asked for the communion chapel and she draped her arm around me and said, “Come with me” and a smile on her face like the cat that just ate the canary. She was super nice and very sweet so I sat in the pew with her and her family.
As a student at University of Maryland, I had a sociology class called “Social Problems” and the oddest, most hopeful professor I had ever met taught the class. We were discussing global hunger and he was hopeful. I asked him why one day after class and he told me it was because of a book that told him he was a child of God. I asked a few more questions and he offered to have his wife and kids pick me up and attend church with his family. I declined but I looked the church up during summer break.
I called a random church office on a Wednesday morning and, what I assumed was the pastor, answered the phone. After I asked what time the communion was on Sunday, he too offered to have his wife and kids meet me and bring me to church or take me to a church closer to my location at the university. (It had been a janitor repairing a leak that morning).
I couldn’t figure out why a pastor was offering to take me to one of his sister churches but I was mightily impressed that he was so concerned for my soul, he was willing to give up a plate offering to have me saved.
I assured him I could navigate my way and hung up on the nicest pastor ever.
Sunday morning I found the church, despite lack of signage in the lawn (weird). I walked in and my knees went weak and I felt like I needed to leave immediately. I couldn’t find the chapel anyway, just a long hall that had what looked like a basketball floor room inside. The building wasn’t long enough to have been the church’s daycare center or youth building. I couldn’t figure out where the front of the church was, where the foyer or ushers were.
In my youth, I had performed in my church’s handbell choir as well as auditioned for and sang in the kids choir. I had exposure to several religions, but this whole hour was just weird.
Lots of kids got up to sing and they obviously hadn’t rehearsed well and didn’t have robes, even though we were in a fairly affluent part of Northern Maryland. I made notes in my notebook about how to help this little flock hire a better choir director. The lady next to me beamed as I wrote notes down.
Next the wafer tray held hand torn bread. I looked around to check reality and the people were dressed nicer and should donate enough to afford wafers. More notes made. I had several friends in several churches. Surely I could hook these people up to some low cost wafers. Seriously folks.
Next the wine tray held water. Not even grape kool-aid. Sigh.
More notes. More smiling from the woman next to me as I scribbled away ways to help this congregation come out of their unexplained impoverished practices.
There should have been liturgical purple draped on a cross somewhere in the room. Nothing. No processions, no banners. I kept looking at the crowd. They couldn’t afford a church nursery or workers either because the kids were all in communion with us and causing a very low pitched but constant ruckus.
Then the light dawned. I had waited with my dollar bills in my skirt pocket and they never passed the collection plate. No wonder they couldn’t afford anything. Duh!
At the end of this very strange service, she asked if I had any questions. I told her I would love to talk to the church Elders. She almost jumped out of her pew seat for joy. She went to get them. I was thinking I would have to be tactful when I mentioned to these elderly men that I could maybe help them price out wafers and would approach that only after I got to know them a little better.
She brought back what looked like two 17 or 18 yr olds in suits with name tags that said “Elder”.
So many years later, a temple worker and many letters written to my own “Church Elders” in Brazil and Iceland, I’m so grateful for that very confusing Sunday morning. I’m grateful the spirit kept me in that building for 20 more seconds.
I miss the liturgical seasons and hymns but still celebrate at home and sing old songs that tug at my heart at times.
The sister missionaries, especially Sister Lyon, kept teaching me to recognize the spirit in our lessons. “That”, she would point out, “That is the Spirit you are feeling”. I learned to live my life recognizing and listening to and for His voice through the Holy Spirit.
So grateful. So very grateful.