Bloggers Note: When thinking about what others think about me, I came back to this story I wrote last year. I combined it with several church visits I had over the last years. We moved to Charlotte almost two years ago, and I remember our families journey to our current church. I think back at how in other churches we had visited in the past we had been almost ignored, and how lonely we felt. I wondered what others thought of me personally, and I tried to express the thoughts of someone who is sitting at church by themselves. Enjoy!
I am adding a new element to the blog. I have been working on some short stories for the last few months, and I want to share them with the world. Below is a combination of several experiences I have ad visiting different churches. Not all churches are like this, but sadly some are not the most friendly places to visit. I hope you enjoy.
As I enter, I look for an empty seat. A little easier to find that I thought it would be. I find a spot to the side, where I can see everything, but not in the midst of everyone. I place my pamphlet to my left, and my coat to my right. It was warm inside. I don’t know if it is from the heat being turned up too high, or all of the people inside. As I sit down slowly, I grab my pamphlet. The man at the door who handed it to me called it the worship guide. The only words he spoke to me was, “Good morning, this is your worship guide.” So I look at my worship guide. I saw what was going to happen during the service, like a program in a play. Act One was going to be singing with someone leading the whole group. Act Two was a solo. Act Three was a reading from the Bible. Act Four was a song from the choir. Act Five was a message from the pastor, and the Final Act was when we were supposed to respond to his message.
As I finished reading my guide, I looked around at others entering the sanctuary. Some were talking with others, as if they had not seen each other all week. Others were getting settled in like I was. They were looking over their worship guide like I had a minute ago. I wonder if anyone had saw me. I wonder if they noticed that I was sitting alone in my seat, with nothing beside me other than my coat and my worship guide. I wonder if they knew I only had seven words spoken to me all morning. Did they want to know? Did they care if I was hurting? Was there something I was doing to keep them away? Did I have a sign on me that said do no approach or was it written on my forehead? I never understood why the only words spoken to me was, “Good morning, here is your worship guide.” These seven words must have been all I needed to understand what is going on. It has the events of each act, and who is preforming that act.
As my thoughts dwelled on what I had been said to me, the first act began. We were led through some songs, and I watched the music leader as he moved his hands, leading us as we sang. I had no clue what to do when he put his hands up, down, left, and right. I looked around at others, and they did not seem to be doing anything different based on the movement of his hands. Everyone singing also seemed to be devoid of any emotion, just standing there like statues. The only thing that moved was their lips, and some did not sing at all. I remember the music leader saying, “We worship a living and active God.” No seemed to be alive while we were singing about this God. In fact, I wondered if God was dead. No one was stirred by the words about God being alive. God was sung about even more, but this time only one person sung about Him. It was a beautiful song. I do not remember the title of the song, but I remember that I just sat there and listened. After it was over, the entire place erupted with applause. They loved what they just heard, and I could not help but to clap with them. The next act was a reading from the Bible. As soon as the words, “Let’s prepare ourselves with reading from,” it was like the life was sucked out of the room. Everyone just sat their quietly, and they were even more still than when we sang earlier. This time, no one’s mouth was moving. After he finished, the choir sang. It was a beautiful melody, and the life came back into the church. Some even stood up to applaud the choir. As soon as the next act began, we all sat there quietly listening to what was being said.
If you love God, you will love others was the focus of the pastor’s message. I wonder how much these people loved me. The only words spoken to me was, “Good morning, here is your worship guide.” I heard about a living God, but from what the pastor said, this church has not been alive since 1975. He talked about the good old days. He talked about how attendance used to be higher, and how the church needed to love others more. I heard what he was saying, but I was unsure if anyone in this room heard what he was saying. Some did say “amen” while he was talking, especially when the good old days would come up. That was the commotion I heard during the fifth act. The Final Act came, and the pastor began to lead everyone. We sang one more song, and then it was over. I gathered my coat, and walked out the door.
The entire time I was there, only seven words were spoken to me. No more, no less. Was I noticed? Did I do something to keep everyone away from me? All I know is that I only had seven words spoken to me the entire time I was there.
“Good morning, this is your worship guide.”
This story is a part of the weekly writing challenge.
Continue the conversation. Have you ever been to an uncomfortable church service. Share you experience here.