For about a year and a half now I've attended an Episcopal church in my area. I love being Episcopalians. I think of us as the aging hippies of Christianity, the liberal heathen Christians who by some other standards might be headed on a fast handcart to a very warm place. While the Anglican church itself has some disagreement over a few key issues, we are a church whose doors are open to all. That openness and expressed belief that God loves every single person is what drew me back to them, the church of my childhood.
Now, I would guess that the average age of our small congregation is about 65. I sing in the church choir and except for me and one other guy whose mother-in-law also is in the choir, everyone else is well past retirement age, as are most of the people that sit in our congregation on Sundays. I love our small church. I love our little choir. Even if we're not loaded with musical talent, we enjoy what we do and are all committed to showing up every Wednesday and Sunday and making a joyful noise.
A few months ago our priest left us to go pastor a larger congregation in a larger city west of us. Until the vestry is ready to call a new priest, we have had visiting priests. For the most part these are retired priests who supplement their retirement by filling in at churches as needed. The priest we've had most often is a really sweet older gentleman. I enjoy his sincerity and his delivery when he takes us through the ecumenical rites and shares a sermon.
Every year our choir, along with anywhere from ten to fifteen other choirs in the area participate in a Christmas choral festival. The offering from this event goes to a local charity, typically the food bank. We had easily the smallest choir participating this year, and so we found a song that was perfectly suited for us. It included a brief solo, and I was asked to sing the part. I won't be shy, I do sing and I sing pretty well. The solo was right in my vocal range and it was a great fit for me. The night of the choral festival the song came off just beautifully, not just my solo but really, the whole song. We (and I) received many compliments and expressions of appreciation. In order for our own congregation to hear the song, we also included it as the offertory anthem Christmas eve and then the following Sunday as well. That Sunday, the priest I mentioned above was our visiting priest.
On that last Sunday, after the recessional, we all filed out of church. As I came up to the priest, he grabbed my hand and pulled me close to speak quietly. "I only want to know one thing," he said.
Of course, my mind filled in all the questions I imagined he might ask:
What a lovely voice you have. Did you take singing lessons?
Have you always had such a talent for music?
I know a talent agent, would you like his number?
Instead, he pulled me down a little lower so he could reach up and tap his forefinger on the dream catcher tattooed on the back of my neck.
"How much did that hurt?"