Sunday, October 18, 2009

In Praise of Church Ladies (and Gentlemen) Everywhere


Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a Consummate Church Lady.  Church Lady was intelligent, compassionate, engaging, demanding, and delightful.  She lived a long life with obvious commitment to her faith, family, and community.

My fondest memories of her are serving on the altar guild with her several years back at the Little Church in PVille.  Or, better yet, under her.  (Insert curtsy here)  Church Lady would arrive on Saturday morning with her Devoted Husband and take charge:  Do not dare to touch the brass without white gloves! Candlesticks are to be placed precisely one hand-width from the altar's edge.  Silver must be polished.  Linens wrinkle free.  Only the most courageous guild members would arrange flowers in her presence.  I never had enough confidence in my sense of symmetry and design to subject myself to her critique.  I stuck to scrubbing lipstick stains out of purificators.  

Church Lady taught me how to launder altar linens the traveling salesman way.  Wash and rinse their handkerchief in the sink, then neatly press it to the countertop, flattening any bubbles and wrinkles.  In the morning, voila!  It appeared as though it had been carefully starched and ironed. I learned so much from her.

She wasn't a close and intimate friend.  She wasn't perfect, could be quite cantankerous, and downright bossy.  Yet, she was an important person God placed in my life. As I sat in her funeral and participated in the liturgy, I was reminded of so many people who have blessed my life through our shared participation in the community of faith.

It's as if I have my own Cloud of Witnesses from churches past and present who continue to bless my life because of this common experience as members of the Body of Christ.  Anyone who has been a part of a faith community knows full well (if they remove the Rose-Colored glasses) that perfection amongst peers is not something you witness in the church.  The argument that members of a faith community are hypocrites because they are sinners makes no sense to me.  We are members of a community of faith because we are sinful, we know it, and we wish to do better and be better.  We need to love and be loved.  We need to forgive and be forgiven.

I remember studying David years back and wondering how in hoohah God could have chosen such a repulsive man to do such important work.   It took a while, but with the help of my friends, I think I began to get it.  If God chose and loved someone who did things as reprehensible as David, God can love and choose someone like me.  Whew.

So right now, thanks to Consummate Church Lady, I am warmly reminded of and grateful for so many who have touched and continue to touch my life.  The memories and experiences aren't all warm and fuzzy.  Oh heavens no.  There are  times when church politics, egos, misunderstandings, lack of communication, tempers, and different takes on theology made times tough.  Very, very tough. 

But, something like the funeral of an imperfect yet faithful church pillar, humbles me.   All of the petty clay-foot human garbage we carry like heavy bags on our backs drops like the scales from Paul's eyes.  For a brief, and shining moment, All Is Well. The unifying factor in the room full of sinners is the grace of forgiveness and love.  I have never experienced anything as encouraging and transforming as that.  Thanks be to God. 

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Sister. Well expressed, God bless us all.


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