Tuesday, December 27, 2016

At some point, I met a woman at Bible study who is now on the verge of moving permanently out of state. She’s fifteen years my senior which seems to be the age of women that I get along with. I took an interest in her life, in the things that she opened up to me about, specifically her son’s high school cross country success and the ups and downs of church office employment. Often the responsibilities of that employment kept her from Bible study.

Then, at some point, she moved on from belonging to that church we met at. I myself had never belonged to it. So, except for Facebook on which she rarely shared, we were out of touch. Recently she became vocal about plans to sell their NJ home and move back closer to their childhood origins. I heard no plans for a good-bye gathering so I picked a Sunday morning to visit the evangelical church she attends.

Just riding through Princeton early on a Sunday morning is a treat. I saw a large group of young people waiting to cross Washington Rd. who may have been participants in the summer sports camps on campus, as Kenny was last summer. I spotted a family touring the campus on their own. Honestly, I’d never before made a right hand turn at Nassau St., so already an adventure. Lovely, beautiful houses, some obviously “original” to the founding. The church was quite out of town. I realized immediately that the wedding photos a photographer had posted to Facebook the day before were taken at this church. I drove straight to the back of the large parking lot and backed in to hide my many bumper magnets.

With my car door open, I leaned back inside to fish out my pocketbook and a bill for the collection. But I could see that an approaching car wished to park in the empty spot next to me. Except my open door was in the way. So, I scooted back into the car and closed the door however the driver had already found another spot nearby. I’m used to church parking lots being still, even deathlike, before a service because everyone is usually already inside for pre-service Sunday School. And with no one to lead the way, it’s a guessing game which door to enter by. No summer Sunday School.

About to open my car door again, I spot a second car coming to the back of the parking lot, and this time the driver does park in the spot next to me. I wait for them all to exit then I make my move to get out of my car. But the driver doubles back to close the car windows, which involves getting in and turning on the car. So I’m waiting feeling dumb. When I do finally get out, I see all the “right” bumper stickers and window clings on the cars parked around me, “Wilberforce School,” “Calvin College,” etc. Schools and colleges. No political stickers.

I see a family with children enter at the end door and decide that’s the nursery. So I’d better find another way in. I clutch tightly my designer Good News Bible with its two-tone leather cover and gilded edges— which I now see are so outdated! I used the hardcover, pew ESV Bible during the service and as confidently as possible, stride up to the side entrance, pleased to see that my long sleeve blouse, ankle-length skirt and leather sandals are in keeping with the prevailing women’s attire.

The service starts on time with the sanctuary a quarter full. I expect the hymn lyrics to be displayed on the screens but, no, Hymns for the Living Church is used.

There is no time for greeting those around us or welcoming visitors. Everything and everyone is “excellent,” because Princeton. I felt dignified just sitting there among them. The sermon hung together beautifully. It was on Isaiah 61. For the most part, he kept to that chapter and only referenced Isaiah 50 and 53 at the beginning. And he mentioned Nehemiah. There wasn’t any quirky theology in it. Nothing peculiar, nothing denominational. Just sinners and savior.

I gave up early on looking for the woman I intended to wish farewell. Once the service started, I was focused. Afterwards, I exited the sanctuary to the lovely area immediately outside. I spotted the acquaintance stuffing a bagel into her mouth. She was speaking with someone but when she saw me, she excused herself from that conversation. Turning to me, she asked that dumb question, “Is this your church, too?” I suppose an even dumber question would be, “What are you doing here?”

Anyway, I wished her well. She was on her way into the sanctuary for the later service and I told her, as well done as it was, it was probably a repeat of the earlier one and I didn’t need it.

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