It is a car that takes me there, an old station wagon borrowed from friends for the year. There’s a car seat for my almost 2-year-old sister, the middle seat belt is uncomfortable and doesn’t buckly easily. The building is part of a campus, there’s a chapel for services, padded, plush pews in green velvet, red carpeted floors, a building for Sunday school, administration, fellowship meals, an orchestra plays on Sunday mornings, accompanied by a white-robed choir. Lush green trees line the roads, leaves change colour and fall to the ground in October. I wear dresses and shoes and bows in my hair.
It’s a jeepney that takes me there, this strange, loud truck of the Philippines, with two benches that face each other and people jammed next to each other, odors mingling, bags clutched tightly to our bodies, holding on to the rail as it lurches and brakes and lurches again. We moved to Manila, and the traffic means long stretches of time spent on Marcos Highway. The front is a light pink, wooden benches that are comfortable and in rows, awkward teenage glances around, I can barely look people in the eye, sermons are 45 minutes long, and it’s hard to pay attention. I could draw a line on my arm and the black under my fingernail is the grime that is piling on. Black comes out of my hair when I bathe.
It’s a friend’s car that takes me there, to a country place in a tiny town. It takes five minutes in the car, but we always drive and never walk. It’s a hodge podge of characters and ages, university students, retirees, warm Southerners who like sweet tea and potluck lunches, the kindest old, tall farmer with white hair, a gruff voice and the smile of Jesus. Another older gentleman who plays the saxophone and likes to rap and says my chocolate chip pecan pie is the best thing he’s ever tasted.
It’s my car that takes me there, Goldilocks the 1990 Toyota Corolla with friendly brown seats that kept me warm in the winter and hot in the summer, I sing loud one hand raised to the sky, the other on the steering wheel. We’re on a mission in this place in Burwood, fire burning in our heart and in our hands. We can change the world. I can change the world.
It’s an airplane that takes me there, to nine countries, where I take car and train and tube and taxi and marshrutka and feet at tram and bus to gigantic building with a thousand to tiny group of the hopeful in a university to an auditorium in a hospital to an Ethiopian village to a room with five in Kiev to Anglican pews.
I go week after week after week after week, not quite every Sunday of my life, but almost. I’ve thought every thought from cynical to hopeful, felt every feeling from joy to anger to sadness to love, I’ve sat there hard, I’ve sat there open. I’ve cried my tears in those pews and in those chairs. My shoulders have touched white and brown and black and cream and peach, it’s been a wafer on my tongue, bread torn off by hand, wine and grape juice.
And however new, however strange, however familiar, whatever the place or the person, I sit in the pew, in the chair, in the living room, on the floor, and I am coming home.
This post is part of Living Church: A 31-Days Journey. Click here to read all posts and head over to Write 31 Days for more great topics in October. I’m also linking up with #TellHisStory and Jennifer Dukes Lee.