No Substitute for ‘Presence’ in Church
Though COVID anxiety remains, I want to offer a reflection on the importance of “presence” and share why I’ve returned physically to church.
Presence = Peace
I’ve always found peace within a chapel or sanctuary, especially on weekday mornings or before church on Sunday. One of my first jobs was at The United Parish in Brookline, Massachusetts, where I was the administrative assistant. At around 10 a.m., I would leave my desk and sit for a few moments in the sanctuary finding peace in the quiet and renewed hope in the murmurs of those who sat there on Sundays’ past. The church is not only shelter from the storm but an invitation to be inspired by the spirit of faith within its walls.
Presence = Connection
Church is an extended family caring for and serving one another. Entering, we come upon those we greet by name and others with a knowing nod. There is opportunity to share a fist bump at good news and an embrace when an expression reveals the hard news within. The short walk to my computer room cannot replace walking the halls of the church where smiles are given freely, acceptance offered without asking.
Presence = The Unexpected
There are surprises at church, whether it be an unexpected acknowledgment of a job well done, a lecture and lunch, music of all genres in the halls, etc. But there can also be extraordinary happenings at church — for me, church is where I met my wife of 43-years, Sheryl. While at the United Parish, I was keeper of the key to the organ, and Sheryl, an organ student at the time, came in often to practice. While extending my hand to give her the key, little did I know I was reaching out to my future wife. Yes, a church can be full of surprises!
My first Sunday back at church, I understood what COVID had taken away this past year.Eric Sebo
Presence = Support
Whether online or in-person, our presence shows support for church staff. Being an organist’s spouse, I understand the “above and beyond” work that goes into preparing a service to bring forth a meaningful experience. So, be sure to let the staff know of your presence by registering your attendance and encouraging others to join in on Sunday mornings.
My first Sunday back at church, I understood what COVID had taken away this past year. I could feel the majesty of the organ, see the nuances of keys played on the piano and sense the passion of the sermon. There is vibrancy in the harmony of color and morning light filtered through welcoming windows and the warmth of mutual care.
So, if you are thinking about returning to church and feel safe in doing so, please remember the importance of your presence. As you take your seat, perhaps like me, you will feel the spirit of undaunted faith within and be at peace.
Eric Sebo, a retired IT technology manager, belongs to Lovers Lane United Methodist, where his wife is the church organist.