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Sunday, January 18, 2015

I knew I'd been to church

St. John's Episcopal Church, Dubuque, Iowa
When I saw it from the outside, I knew I was going to church
 When I walked inside, I knew I was in church.
Four weeks ago today, I went to St. John's Episcopal Church in Dubuque, Iowa, with my youngest son Derrick, and my granddaughter Liberty, while Naomi stayed home with Barrett, who was sick.
The church is old--founded in late 1834, a little more than a year after the town was established, the oldest town in what is now Iowa. I'm not sure when the building was erected, but the sponsorships under the stained glass windows dated from the mid 1880s.
I'm not a"high-church" person, raised among fundamentalist Texans and Okies, but I felt immediately at home.
First, when you walk into that church, you feel peace, and are hushed by the architecture--a far cry from our  modern churches here that look more like movie theaters or strip mall stores.
I know, I know, the church is the people, not the building, but if that is so, why do we still talk about "going to church"?
I'm sure not familiar with all that liturgy stuff, but the worship service did get me to thinking. Our fundamentalist traditions  and habits are nothing more than liturgies. I'm not being critical, but observant, having been enriched by new experiences.
And in this hour more scripture was read than I've ever heard in one service, and more emphasis was placed on communion than I think I've ever seen. Instead of the focus being on somebody's sermon, the emphasis was on the Word, and communion. We participated in communion, not merely took it. Derrick, who studies such things, says this is typical, compared to our more recent populist cultures and religions.
Another practice that makes me nervous when visiting somewhere is when people all get up and come around to greet you. Here it was simple. "Peace be with you," was the greeting, with a smile. What do we need more than peace?
That, and having your granddaughter set beside you in an old oak pew, next to your son, under beautiful stained glass windows, and the magnificent sound of an ancient organ? 
No, it isn't perfect...the church membership has dwindled, though there were plenty of parents with young children scattered among the old timers. And it's struggling to pay its bills, like keeping it heated for $100 a day. It was cold outside--below freezing, and this was a warm winter day in a city on the Mississippi River across from Wisconsin and Illinois.  
But you hear church bells downtown on Sunday morning. Around the corner and down the street is the towering steeple of St. Mary's Catholic Church, seen behind the top photo on the right, one of 11 Catholic churches in this city of perhaps 70,000 people.
Like it, this building speaks and enhances the glory of faith, and inside the people and the liturgy did what I think worship is supposed to do--bring you into contact with eternity and give you peace. 
I knew I'd been to church.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds wonderful. Especially the sitting next to the granddaughter part. I grew up in the Mormon west in small towns so we went to Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian Churches. I like the liturgical service instead of getting yelled at.


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