sun shining worship
vast, beautiful cool treasures
airy heights pale beams
Church this month in the Low Country is being held outdoors on a piece of property where the Church hopes to build a Church.
Nothing too unusual about that but in this case, the Church has partnered with the Local Community Theater in an effort to build a Community venue that on Sundays will host the Church and the rest of the week will be the area community theater.
Kind of a cool idea when you come down to it.
In conversation with the Pastor he remarked that their Bank isn’t quite sure how to deal with this.
The Bank has a plan to loan money to build a Church.
The Bank has a plan to loan money to build a Community Theater.
But the Bank isn’t quite sure how to proceed when the two partner together to raise money together and share the building.
So the Church is meeting this month on the property here in Bluffton, SC.
My brain for the most part is still on Michigan’s Weather Schedule.
I look at the calendar and think Sunday Morning Church outside in November and I dressed in several layers.
Layers that weren’t necessary as the sun was out and the morning was perfect for Church.
A vacant lot in a business development in South Carolina may not be the prettiest spot on earth but that morning, with the sun on my face and the incredible blue vault of sky over head it wasn’t bad.
Bill Bryson’s account of visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome came to mind.
Mr. Bryson wrote: “St Peter’s doesn’t look all that fabulous from the outside, not at least from the piazza at its foot, but step inside and it’s so sensational that your mouth falls open whether you want it to or not. It is a marvel, so vast and beautiful and cool and filled with treasures and airy heights and pale beams of heavenly light that you don’t know where to place your gaze.”
I felt that.
But I felt that this morning just being outdoors.
No big building.
I felt that for the warm sun on face.
It brought to mind also Berean Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Church where I grew up.
Not sure why but after being on the board, the church history committee, teaching 4th grade Sunday School for 10 years (if that doesn’t give you a fright I don’t know what will) and the church librarian, I still got greeted by greeters.
I would be welcomed and exchanged pleasantries,
Then I would be asked if I had been there before.
And I would answer I been going there since 1960.
Then the greeter would realize I was one of ‘those’ Hoffman’s.
There was a time when, with 11 dutch kids, we took up 2 full pews it seemed.
Two full pews of blond kids.
The Church was in the traditional design with what was probably a 4 or 5 story sanctuary open from floor to roof beams with a balcony running around three sides of the interior.
The walls reached high above the balcony on either side and way up near the top were wide stained glass windows.
There were times when everything worked out and morning sun would pour through those windows and multi colored beams of light reached out across the congregation.
I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.
It wouldn’t last long.
At some point, someone sitting in the sunlight would squirm and then hold a Church bulletin over their head to shield their eyes.
Then another and another.
And that would be it for the sunshine.
Upstairs in the Balcony there were be some movement.
I knew what was coming and while I regretted the loss of sunshine what came next was pretty good,
Upstairs an usher would be making their along the balcony to stand under the windows.
In their hand would be a 20 foot bamboo pole with a metal hook on the end.
Above each window was a rolled up window shade.
Hanging down from each shade was pull cord about 20 feet long hanging down.
There was a small loop in the bottom of the cord.
As you might have guessed at the this point the usher was going to try and fish the hook on the end of the pole though the loop on the cord and pull the shade down over the window.
At this point, the sermon was over.
The Pastor knew it.
The congregation knew it.
I sure knew it.
This was like what Woody Hayes said about passing football.
Three things could happen and 2 of them were bad.
Except that with a 20 foot bamboo pole, a 20 foot cord and a spring loaded window shade there were a whole lot more than three things that could happen and only one of them was good.
This being a Baptist Church everyone ignored what was going.
This being a Baptist Church everyone watched anyway but trying to not watch.
When the pole went up and the hook missed the loop you could hear a pulse run through the church.
An audible sigh.
That poor usher knew that everyone was watching.
Now there was NO WAY that this was going to go well.
And it did go well every once in awhile.
An older, experienced usher would know what to do and they would catch that loop the first time and slowly draw the shade down and handle that tricky point of the deal where the loop was removed from the hook with the same tension being maintained on the cord so that the downward progress of the shade was maintained at a steady rate.
But there was nothing an older, experienced usher wanted to do more than to hand off the job to some new guy, some young guy who WANTED THE JOB, who wanted to show just how slick they were.
No older, experienced usher never ever wanted to deny this opportunity to learn to someone eager for the job.
We never seemed to be short of those who were eager to give this a try so this was almost always a great show.
Repeated efforts to hook the loop.
The mistake to pull straight down without working that pole to lay out at an angle so that you could bring the shade down in one continuous motion.
Let the loop off the hook.
And what we all waited for, to lose the cord at just the wrong time and release the tension in the pull in just the wrong way so that the spring was released and the shade was rolled back up happened a lot.
Sometimes this happened slowly and everyone would smile as the shade rolled up.
Sometimes this happened in a rush and a snap and then folks laughed out loud.
Sometimes it was right out of the movies and the shade rolled up so fast and so hard that it rolled over and over and tangled everything up with the cord.
When that happened I fell out of the pew and my brother Pete had to sit on me with his hand over me mouth to keep me quiet.
Once it seems that the shade shot up and rolled and snapped and actually fell off the wall but that might have just been me hoping real hard.
Did I mention there were three of these windows a side?
Somehow Church went on.
And at some point someone came up with the bright idea of putting really long cords on those shades so we didn’t need the pole anymore.
Neither here no there but it seems like that happened after I had reached an age where I might be expected to not try something with those cords had they been in reach.
It sure made church interesting from the none-going-to-meeting point of view.
I was a kid but I understood the predicament of the Pastor.
Poor guy had to keep going in the face of adversity.
But maybe because I had read Huckleberry Finn I felt maybe they might have handled this differently.
In Huckleberry Finn a funeral is interrupted by the most outrageous row busted out in the cellar a body ever heard. It was only one dog, but he made a most powerful racket, and he kept it up right along.
The funeral went on just like Church did..
But in Huck Finn, the undertaker went to investigate “… and then rose up, and shaded his mouth with his hands, and stretched his neck out towards the preacher, over the people’s heads, and says, in a kind of a coarse whisper, “He had a rat!” Then he drooped down and glided along the wall again to his place. You could see it was a great satisfaction to the people, because naturally they wanted to know. A little thing like that don’t cost nothing, and it’s just the little things that makes a man to be looked up to and liked. There warn’t no more popular man in town than what that undertaker was.
Yesterday just as the Preacher started preaching a whole bunch of Harley Davidson motorcycles went by.
My wife noticed that everyone on cue, like a drill team, looked to the right.
It was so much a group effort that the Pastor stopped and looked.
“They’re Motorcycles,” he said.
YOU HAVE ALL SEEN THEM BEFORE.
And with a laugh we went on.
There warn’t no more popular man in town than what that undertaker was.
Sermon in the Sun.
Worship in the sunshine.
Life in the low country.