That older single lady with the grey hair and quirky dress. The men stuffing themselves into old suits a size and a half too small or the old men whose suits now hang off of them like an old wire rack. It’s the cologne or a cheap perfume. The smell of the makeup that now rests on your baby after being held by that long-time church member. The breath mints. For me, it was always a stick of Juicy Fruit from my grandmother, in a bid to keep me still in “Big” Church. The musical number at the start of service. The awkward solo during the offering. Then the grand finale, The Preacher delivers a heart-felt, well-rehearsed sermon. The altar call. The catharsis after prayer and a tear or two. The “thanks for coming!” smiles as you depart. Now I know I’ve been at Church.
All of this and more make up my church experience and that of countless others. I know it as “home.” It’s where I go to God and let the presence of His Spirit permeate my being. It’s where many go for social contact. Many more to be relieved of burdens. The Church is staffed with tireless, usually overworked, volunteers filling their part in the ministry. And it’s needed. I missed the hugs and the familiar smiles. I missed the sense of shared purpose, of being a part of something greater than yourself. I missed my brothers and sisters.
Watching the toddler color, sitting on the floor because they refused to stay on your lap. The crying baby who needs to be taken out of service. Dropping the kids off at “Children’s Church.” Watching their excited faces when you pick them up. Arriving home to the crock-pot dinner of savory carrots, buttered potatoes, and fatty roast. A full meal leads to the afternoon nap and dreams of things worth fighting for.
There’s a place for liturgy, but I believe God designed us for community. This is the community of American church. I grew up here. My children will grow up here. It will always be Home.