I didn’t know what to expect as I turned the gold handle of the glass door to the church. It had been a struggle to decide to go to church last night. The little Methodist church that I have been attending was having their Maundy Thursday service. I had never been to a Maundy Thursday service. I knew they were going to wash feet and have Eucharist. I knew the foot washing was optional. I knew I would opt out.
I had an internal struggle all day. I am uncomfortable when I attend this church. It isn’t the formality of the service. It’s that I feel so out of place. I know only a few people there. Of the ones I know, I have no close bonds with them. The Pastor is cordial.
It came down to my desire to watch American Idol, or go to church. Finally conviction of the words, can you not tarry with Me one hour sent me to turn the handle of that glass door. In total, there were less than 20 people there. The liturgist was an elderly gentleman with an accent I couldn’t identify. The Pastor was dressed in a black robe with a purple stole. A galvanized metal tub graced the front of the church with a gourd dipper beside it.
As friends greeted each other and chatted, one woman came and ask my name. Her name was Ginger. I appreciated her greeting. The Pastor said hello. Otherwise, I sat in silence on the wrong side of the church. To make my separateness more complete, it seems everyone save one, sat on the opposite side of the sanctuary. I’m used to going to church alone but my aloneness was acute last night.
The processional began as the Pastor came in with Christ's candle. The liturgist led us in prayer and recitation. The short homily spoke of the Exodus from Egypt. The three children in attendance asked questions on cue. The foot washing was simple but profound. The Pastor himself seemed uncomfortable with the ceremony and opted out of having his foot washed. It seemed my fears of being the only one to opt out were unfounded.
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Table was served by two of the children in attendance. I walked the aisle to receive the Sacrament with people I don’t know. Yet, at that moment, we all partook of the grace of the Sacrament. I felt glad I had come. As I meditated on the suffering of my Lord as He prayed in the garden, I realized my meager sacrifice and discomfort was nothing. He was alone even with His disciples close by. He was alone as He cried out to His Father. He was alone as He faced the agony of the coming crucifixion. My aloneness was nothing.
The Pastor explained the stripping of the church of the reminders of Christ. The small gathered saints began to sing Go to Dark Gethsemane. I decided to leave. I felt uncomfortable participating in the stripping of the church with these people I didn’t know. It seemed that was a “family” activity. I am not family.
As I turned the handle again to exit, the sound of their hymn collided with the loud raucous sounds of the bar down the street. I thought of the comments on Facebook I’d seen. People ready to party because they had a three day weekend. The nightlife in tiny Kingston Springs was declaring the same thing.
On the same street were a small group of people inside the church, participating in ancient rituals to remember the soberness of Maundy Thursday. They were preparing for the pain of the Cross and the glory of Resurrection.
What a contrast on a beautiful night in Tennessee. Revelry and sacredness in one small block. I looked back and saw the glow of the stained glassed windows of the church. I was glad I had chosen to worship on Maundy Thursday.