On summer Sunday mornings, the year my daughter was about to turn one, I could usually be found hanging out with her on our front steps. Most of those mornings, my neighbor Derek would slam out his front door, catch sight of me and yell, “Sister, do you want to go to Meeting with me?” I’d smile and say, “No, not this morning, Derek, thanks anyway.” As a new Mom with a full-time job outside the home, the last thing I wanted was to go sit in a stuffy church and miss an hour of watching my girl grow.
I knew Derek was a Quaker and wasn’t concerned about that. My best friend and her family were Quakers, as were our oldest family friends back in Maine. I had spent lots of time with Episcopalians, too, but I didn’t feel the urge to go to church anywhere. I just wanted to be with my family.
Derek continued to call out to me most Sunday mornings, and a few summers came and went.
By that time, I was starting to miss Sunday God time but still cherished Sundays with no obligations. To stay right here, swinging Mia on her swing and introducing her to delicious smoothies and pancakes covered in berries, was church enough for me.
I don’t know exactly what happened, except that I was working fewer hours, and Mia was bigger, and one Sunday I wandered up the hill to West Hills Friends. I sat in the back. That morning Jill and Aaron were the music leaders, and as Jill started to sing so beautifully, I started to cry. The light was coming in those windows casting gold and rose shadows on people in the pews.
I went back the next Sunday. The message was about hunger and our call to welcome everyone to our table. I cried again. Between the music and the politics, something was reaching me.
For about a year, I came most Sundays and sat in the back, not talking to anyone except Gladys and Charles, Pat Evans and Derek. The music was beautiful and the politics were right up my alley. The humor was surprising, quick and unexpected. I loved it. And no one asked me to sign on or explain myself. I was just welcome. It was okay to show up and cry.
Sometimes I cried as soon as I sat down. Sometimes a hymn brought tears. Or the message. Or something shared in open worship. The tears were inevitable, and I was mystified by them.
Then one Sunday I understood. I was home.
It took a few years of God calling out to me through Derek, but I finally got here and have never left.
FN: * The title is from a great song. My favorite version is by Patty Loveless but I couldn’t find it on YouTube. Here is a version with the lyrics.