Volume 48, Issue 1
Walking in, I feel cold and separate from the masses of people that fill the church. While everyone talks to one another I walk on unsteady legs around them, trying to find somewhere to sit. I find a spot in the far back near the corner, away from the sea of people that swarm around me like bees in a hive. Unaware of an intruder in their midst, I walk—ignored and unseen. Thankfully, everyone is prompted to find their seats by the surrounding hum of organ music signaling the beginning of the morning service—after a few hymns the pastor gets up to give his sermon. I am so far at the back that by the time the pastor’s words reach my ears I pick up only the soft mumbles and echoes the room provides.
I look toward the stained glass windows; they had looked so beautiful before, yet now they are like bars trapping me in. Their stories exquisitely depict scenes of holiness that I could never dream to understand; tales of love, loss, forgiveness, and redemption, and I feel alone in my daydream of colored glass. As the service ends, I feel a rush of miraculous freedom as I walk out the church doors—like a restless bird finally free from a colorfully cold and cluttered cage.
Weeks pass as they always do, with nothing exciting happening. My usual Sunday morning stroll seems the same until I pass by the church. I stop and watch from across the street as people slowly walk in. I hadn’t been back, though a part of me wanted to; maybe it would be different this time and before I can talk myself out of it I begin to cross the street. I quickly slip into the church and maneuver around a few groups of people.
Light filters through the windows, bathing everyone in a colorful light that glows warm on my skin. I look for a seat at the sound of the organ’s guttural trill, again deciding on a pew in the far back. Worry enters my mind — the possibility of a repeat performance leaves a sickening feeling in my stomach. But half way through the first hymn, an elderly man enters from the back of the church and sits beside me. He turns to me and smiles; grateful for the interaction, I return his smile. When the morning sermon starts, I happily ignore the incomprehensible mumbles and instead focus on the windows.
“Aren’t they beautiful?” the old man whispers, drawing my attention.
“Yes, they’re simply wonderful,” I reply, leaving us in a few moments of silence.
“I love sitting in the back,” he says, bringing me back into our hushed back-pew conversation.
“Why? You can’t even hear the sermon.”
“There’s more to church and faith than being able to hear the sermon,” says he.
Silently I nod and agree; for the rest of the sermon we speak in hushed tones, starting an unusual friendship. When the service ends, I say goodbye to my new friend, promising to see him next week and when I stand to leave, I feel no rush to get outside into the cool air. I no longer feel the compressed and trapped feelings I did before, for my prison is no more.