Holy Sanctuary, where art thou?

(Previously published)

Early morning on March 18th, I stumbled on the concrete stoop of a Lutheran church in the Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn, greeted by large, arched wooden doors that stood shut. They were adorned with clunky wrought-iron door hooks, that looked like they could have existed during the Roman era. The doors were almost the size of the Damascus gate (the main entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem), flanked by towers built with stone like Medieval castles. Its impact and ancient stance coaxed my senses into presuming that the church could have had a very long history, which I equated to authenticity, you know, the real thing. I figured that meant, the Holy Spirit had resided within the church interminably. Perhaps, he (the Holy Spirit) had been in this church even before my great great-great-grandfather was born.

“Oh, he’s in there and he’s real!” I imagined a total saturation of the divine being inside the church.

“I’m coming to you!” I said, filled with anticipation to open the church’s majestic doors.

The reason I found myself on the door steps of this church: For two years I immersed myself in a scavenger-hunt for a Lutheran Church (the church my family attends), to plead my allegiance to. I admit to small periods of absolute remiss on this matter, during the two years. While other times I engulfed myself in it, like an addict overwhelmed with the need to find their next hit.

My mother’s prescription for this dilemma, was a recommendation to look on the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America’s website, to search for a congregation that is located in my stomping grounds. As I adhered to her suggestion, I was overwhelmed by the number of choices the website dished out, as over one hundred prospects appeared on my computer screen.

“Which one shall I choose?” I asked myself, feeling stuck in the wild without knowing where to go.

I started thinking about what it is I needed in a church. This opportunity to choose, jumpstarted my journey.

Did I need a church that suited my sensibilities? Could I possibly find one that is tailored to my needs? Was there such a thing? Were questions that clogged my mind.

Now here I was, standing at the threshold of this church.

Was “old-fashioned and antique looking” going to give me more of the “Holy Spirit,” than something that is nonconforming? The competent side of my brain, instantly wiped out that lame prognosis.

Despite the aura obtruding from the church, hence the description above, there was no indication of the living within the spectrum of my sight. My radar also detected rigidness from the unwelcoming shut doors.

I paced myself as I walked into the church, lost in petrifaction of the unknown. A spacious oblong-shaped, dim foyer appeared. This time, to my amusement, double doors swung wide open on my left, leading to a seated congregation.

“Phew!” I exclaimed, relieved to find folks inside.

An usher snapped me out of my daze, by brandishing an 8×10 program for the service in my face. Caught off guard, I instantly swerved anticipating a pickle, but snatched the program from the docile stumpy aged woman once I caught a glimpse of what it was.

Several rows from the pulpit, I settled on the edge of a lonely empty bench. The congregation was the smallest I had ever seen in any church. I counted four people on the right side of the church where I was, and roughly seven people on the left. This proved to amuse me very much, especially because I had been a guest in other churches of different denominations in the past, and let’s just say finding a good seat in them was as great a challenge as hearing the Priest or Pastor preach. One seriously strained to hear a word, as the echo from the mic persistently bounced on the walls of a twenty thousand square foot room, and then trying to balance on their make belief chair of a protruding slab hanging from the corner of a wall, the only thing available for them to sit on.

“Where are those that attend this church?” I wondered.

Not to undermine its credibility because of the low head count, but could it be that parishioners of a church are what keeps it functional? Go figure.

There were things that stuck out to me during the service, positive things that could put an unfaltering claim to my Sunday mornings, but others retained a veto and pushed for a continued search for my perfect holy sanctuary.

There was a female priest! Although a triple positive in my book, I didn’t know it to be common. I loved the surprise. With only a few members in attendance on this day, I think its safe to call it an intimate affair. Intimate enough to personally introduce yourself to the gracious and amiable Priest, and the welcoming fellow worshipers: A huge Nike swoosh in my book! Who needs a big crowd anyway? One-on-one meet and greet, is a definite uncertainty with a large congregation. Also, the program for the service was easy to follow and so I was in sync with everyone as soon as I sank on my seat.

“Oh, I did it! I think I have found my church!” *grins*

“Wait a minute, why does it feel like I’m sitting on bubbles?” I said, mind-boggled by the surface of the cushioned bench I was sitting on. It had lumps on all the wrong places.

“What are these contours, pebbles, rivers, lakes, and san dunes that I’m feeling?” I whiffed.

I was totally exasperated by the burgundy and velvet cushioned bench, so much that it broke my focus. I darted my eyes toward all the empty benches, looking for a way out and only to recognize uneven surfaces through out the church. I could spot bumps from afar through the dark-red material, that looked old enough to be assembled back when they used to refer to burgundy as maroon. Yes, these benches were qualified to be maroon, not burgundy.

“How did an effort to place more comfort on the benches by adding some cushion, turn so bad?” I asked myself, desperately wishing the benches were left in their “hard surface” original form.

I proceeded to cross my legs and swayed my body drastically to the left, in an effort to leave only one cheek of my bottom to deal with the conflict. At this point, I would have sat on a plank.

And then there was the dimness through out the church. If I tried to measure the intensity of that light, it would not even qualify. I wasn’t up for a candle-lit romantic dinner, nor were the premises befitting for a movie theater, so I didn’t get the purpose of “conserving the light.” If I had stayed inside a little longer after the service, I had no doubt I was going to see bats, owls and raccoons at play. Even then, the good outweighed the bad.

Should I hold out for my happily ever after? Please leave your comments below. I want to hear your thoughts about it. 🙂

Stay tuned to Part 2 of my unsolved Church Saga.

Copyright © 2015 by Selwana Hudson. All Rights Reserved