Our minister stands at the front of the sanctuary every Sunday. He’s a tall man, thin, graying, in love with his work. He reaches into the water of the baptismal font, pulls hands dripping with water up and lets the water flow through his fingers back into the font and says, “Welcome home, children of God.”
For Marty and I, this place, this church, has always been kind of home, a place populated with familiar and friendly faces, a place with recognizable comfortable beauty, a place that more often than not nurtured our souls, a place where we were able to guide and nurture others.
This was where I saw my children grow in spirit and in life. This is where what I thought I knew of life was challenged and evolved. This is where it was safe to think and to be. This is where my children stood in front of our congregation and taught. This is where tears ran down my face as another infant was baptized. This is where my daughter was married and my marriage was restored. It is, in so many ways, home.
Like many of the places we have called home over the years Marty’s wheelchair, her strokes, our age have impacted how often we were able to visit and how much we have been able to reconnect. All too often we have been strangers in this home and the time gone by has brought change.
We no longer sit in the front left of the sanctuary, we always sat in the 2nd or 3rd row because we came in through the front door and that’s where the church youth sat and we rode herd on the kids. We no longer know all of the faces in the congregation. We no longer have young charges to sit behind and hush as they passed notes and squirmed and made kid noises; we no longer stand and sing the hymns we know by heart or stand to say the creeds. We no longer sit in total reverent silence as the prayers are read, as the scripture is read, as the sermon is preached. (The whole reverent silence might be overstated just a bit, Marty was never that reverent or silent.)
Today we sit in the back to be as unobtrusive as possible and because the wheel chair ramp is closest to the back. Today there are no young people sitting in front of us, today I sit beside Marty holding the hymnal for her as the congregation stands and sings, today in the quietest parts of the service instead of bowing our head in prayer, Marty hums, “MMM, MMM, MMM.”
I’ve gotten used to the humming; its part of what Marty does when she gets a little anxious, a little bored, a little self conscious. It’s why we go to the movies in the afternoon, it’s why we don’t go to poetry readings (like we would anyway, sorry), it’s why we try and avoid the quiet moments, “MMM, MMM, MMM.”
We sat in the back as Jimmie, our minister, welcomed all of us and Marty hummed. We listened as Jimmie led us through the liturgy and Marty hummed. We listened as the scriptures were read and Marty hummed, we listened as the choir sang an anthem and Marty hummed, we listened to the sermon and Marty hummed, we watched the parade of little children come tumbling down the middle aisle to participate in the miracle that is baptism and Marty hummed.
It tends to make me a little anxious, I really don’t want to offend anyone or distract them from whatever is happening. I hated it for the poor young woman who sat in front of us. At one point in time I gently touched Marty on the knee to get her attention and distract her from the hum, she looked at me and said in her outdoor voice, “What?” She’s not even aware she’s doing it. Great job husband, let’s make it worse and call more attention to ourselves.
I finally just settled into the rhythm of the service, the rhythm of the day, the rhythm of the humming. It was a change in our home, our church, our worship pattern; it was more of what we have become. It was not the quiet, reverent praying, it was humming, it was humming as meditation, it was humming to fill the silence, it was humming as prayer, it was humming for Jesus.
We are an evolving species. That evolution becomes clear and stark in the face of catastrophic events, i.e. strokes. Survival requires not only recognition of this evolution but acceptance; we must embrace the change to survive.
I need to sit in that church and hum along with Marty, after all, people hum when they meditate. I need to let the humming focus me on the prayer, on the scripture, on the song, on the sermon. I need to hum with Marty and accept this is where we are; I need to very simply hum for Jesus, just as Marty does. Hopefully the people sitting around Marty will find a way to evolve too then we call all hum for God.
I like going to our church. Marty likes seeing her friends there, we love our minister and he has helped both of us shape our world view and helped us cope with our journey. Going requires acceptance, going requires effort to break from the inertia of not going, going is being back home with all of the other children of God. I like being home.