Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Have Mercy

I love my church. And I should, because it took us years to finally find a church home after we moved to Charlotte. Clint and I spent many a Sunday going around town like a religious version of Goldilocks--Churchylocks if you will--saying this church is too big, this church is too small, this one is too far, this one is too casual. And then we finally found the one that was just right.

We typically leave discussing what a great sermon we heard, or what an awesome choir we have (and okay, on particularly hungry occasions, where we are headed for lunch). But this last Sunday...was something else. Never in my life have I seen people act the way the folks who sat around us were acting. I felt like I was on some bizarre episode of Church Bloopers and Congregational Jokes.

If you want to move about like you have ants in your pants, there is no doubt a worship service just for you--somewhere. I happen to know for a fact that there is a contemporary service back in the fellowship hall where you can mill around eating cookies and drinking coffee while jamming to a Christian rock band. Nowadays there are so many different types of church services for just about any personality; I am sure you can find one where you can do the electric slide to Amazing Grace while wearing a boa constrictor around your neck like a rosary if that's what you really want. And that is great. Different strokes for different folks. You just can't enjoy that type of atmosphere in our almost hundred year-old sanctuary during formal morning worship. I don't come to your casual service and slap the cookie out of your hand, do I?

Bear in mind as you read this that all these shenanigans were happening within a group of only about six people. And what a three-ring circus these half dozen people managed! The adage "judge not, lest ye be judged" has come into my mind right now, so I would also like to add that I would never tell anyone what to do or what not to do during their worship experience. However, just to get it off my chest, I would like to offer some simple suggestions for church behavior that I thought went without saying.

As soon as we were seated, I notice the woman in front of me is texting. Her hot pink phone perfectly matched to her hot pink dress, she is holding the phone up like a hymnal and just typing away. Seriously? You know that I am not exactly a techie or anything, but I wholeheartedly believe you can talk to God without the aid of an iPhone. Can't we all put our beloved mobile devices away for just a little while at church? Back in the 90s, we didn't bring our Gameboys or Walkmans in, so you can wait an hour to send that very important text (winky face).

The worship service begins, and now it's time to sing. So how about when we stand to sing a hymn, do not turn around and face the people sitting behind you, even if it is so that you can wave to someone you know up in the balcony. While I do have the voice of an opera soprano (ahem), this is a bit more of an audience than the average churchgoer is comfortable with entertaining. Further, don't continue standing in their faces and doing your little miniature wave for the next four stanzas. Face front--or as my friend Jen tells her boys during Mass, eyes on the prize!

Kids can get bored during the duration of the hour; it is understandable. However, to keep them entertained and well behaved, it might not be the best idea to pack your child 217 colored pencils in a large Ziploc freezer bag, and then allow the child to loudly paw through said bag all service long, like a dog digging up a bone. Also, maybe tell the kid to try not to be so conspicuous with the drawing. Because the little angel behind me was scribbling like someone having a psychotic break writing a ransom note.

Surely, in a world gone mad, elderly people in church are the voices of reason. The greatest generation knows how to conduct themselves and be reverent, yes? Sadly, not this Sunday. In the middle of the sermon, Grams behind me loudly unzips her purse and begins to clean it out. She finally pauses, and I breathe a sigh of relief thinking she is done sorting and organizing her rain bonnet, cough drops, and heart pills, when I realize she has now pulled out a tube of hand cream. Nana then proceeds to apply, rub, reapply, rub, rub, for what seemed like a purgatory eternity. On the upside, I am sure her hands now feel baby soft. And I am having chest pains.

If there is anyone out there who is unfamiliar, pretty much every Sunday morning service lasts for an hour. Always has, always will. You cannot speed worship at your own pace and beat the clock on this one. If you don't have the time, then don't come. But especially do not keep stepping out in the aisle in an attempt to persuade the rest of your family to join you in making for the exit. The little old man behind me tried to break for the door not one, not two, but four times. Take a load off, Pop Pop. You aren't going anywhere because Granny is still back there moisturizing and little Jimmy is finishing up the final color palette on that ransom note.

On our way to the car, Clint asks me if I noticed the gentlemen sitting beside him. Apparently, this fine fellow spent the bulk of the service rubbing his pants together, as if trying to create enough friction to start a campfire (I have heard people say they are "on fire" for the Lord, but this one leaves me baffled). Amazingly, with all of the other hubbub I was drowning in, I missed the Sir Pants On Fire. Believe me when I tell you that my mother could have stopped and/or killed all of those people with one patented Look. It worked to keep my brother and me in line all those years.

My biggest concern as we left was getting a good eye on these people to make sure I could recognize them and never sit near them ever, ever again. So if you see a group of parishioners with a hot pink cell phone, a bag of colored pencils, and a Costco value size tube of hand cream who look like they are getting ready to make an early exit, do yourself a favor and find another pew. And Lord: have mercy.

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