In the World Again

I’m out in the world now after my accident and escorted my wife and girls to church this morning. When we first started to attend, a couple years ago, we met in the ‘old building’ where I could sit and admire the old hand-wrought woodwork, no doubt crafted by servants dedicated to working for God. Since I choose my church by architecture, this was good for me. Apparently, it wasn’t good for the church. They were meeting thrice on Sundays and multiple times during the week. Out of the blue, it seemed, there was a push for building funds. Soon we had a modern barn-like metal shed for a new building and offices. We now meet in an auditorium in seats that efficiently stack one atop the other under an open ceiling with the heating system painted flat black so as not to be distracting. In other, less flattering words, we meet in a warehouse.

The meeting is just about like that at any other modern church. Jesus is presented as your best pal who really, really loves you. I don’t blame the pastor for this. He sticks closely and academically to the Bible in his preaching. And the parishioners are quite wonderful: they took care of everything at my house and for my wife while I was in the hospital for three months. But the overall feeling is an emotional plea to invite Jesus in as your best buddy. Who better to watch Clemson football with?

In the interim, since I had been there, while my body was healing up, the church hired a new worship leader. Our former leader was an older gentleman who tried hard but probably didn’t have an appeal to Gen-Xers. And everyone knows that drawing youth through the door is key to longevity. I laughed and thought of Annie Dillard when the new leader stepped out of the choir to grab his guitar by the neck. He strummed a few insipid chords and began his first of several new worship songs whose writer knows only a few words, none of them descriptive or sublime in the least. In my humble estimation, we are in a mad race to the bottom.

Every time a hear this, I think back to hearing a Catholic choir sing in Latin. A sense came over the entire church, a sense that was both heavy and uplifting, if that is possible, with a palpable feeling that God was greater than anyone present could understand. Though a confirmed agnostic, it was hard for me to resist. Jesus as your bestie? A two-inch think systematic theology where we define everything about god in bullet points? C’mon. Really?

In honor of the new worship leader, I repost this here that first I published elsewhere.

If you haven’t read Dillard, I recommend starting with Holy The Firm. It’s deep and sad and thoughtful on every level, as is all of her work.

Annie Dillard Poking Fun

On the heels of yesterday’s post about Annie Dillard’s new book, I invite you to click over to her official website for a treat of the purple-coat variety. When half of the internet adverts I see are for social media managers and SEO, it is absolutely refreshing to read someone who says, “No Thank You.” And means it. And please respect her wishes that you avoid Wikipedia. “Unreliable,” she says.

For more fun, read this essay titled Church. It is classic Dillard, but I point it out for this fantastic line:

“It all seems a pity at first, for I have overcome a fiercely anti-Catholic upbringing in order to attend Mass simply and solely to escape Protestant guitars.”


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