December 21st, 2008

A Pocket Full of Murder

A Church Like Home

We woke this morning to a tranquil-looking world lightly blanketed in snow. There seemed no reason that this Sunday shouldn't be just as busy as I'd anticipated – rush out the door by nine, drive out of town to our little country chapel for nine-thirty, and then a whirlwind of meetings, piano playing, rehearsing and preparing for the evening's Christmas pageant. After setting up the stage with props and scenery we'd dash home for a late lunch with kids who would undoubtedly be cranky and restless by then, and then rush out again at five for the dress rehearsal and final performance. My husband and I often find Sundays hectic anyway; this one was bound to be exceptionally so.

But then the phone rang. It was one of the elders, telling us that due to blowing snow and poor visibility on the highways, the morning meetings at our chapel would be cancelled.

I knew that if I were a really spiritual person I would feel disappointed, but all I could feel was relief. No panic to get out of the house, no expectations, no programs. Just a relaxing day at home.

My father, however, is a godly man with a much better sense that "what is essential is invisible to the eye," as Saint-Exupery put it. He immediately picked up the phone and started calling all the chapel folks who live in our town, inviting them to come and meet together at our house. So my mother and my visiting sister-in-law and I bustled around preparing tea and coffee (but that was easy because I was working in my own kitchen), and making up platters of Christmas cookies and other snacks to share with our friends. And at ten-thirty this morning, twenty people – men and women, teens and young children – gathered in our living room, opened up Bibles and hymn books, and had an impromptu service.

It was simple. It was meaningful. It was relaxed. And afterward we all stood around and enjoyed food and conversation while the kids played together. Nobody was stressed out or in a hurry.

It was really, really nice.

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Modern Christians often assume that we are better off than the early Christians were because we can meet without fear of persecution, and make our buildings as large and splendid as we like. But I'm not sure that in separating our church meetings from the homes where we live our daily lives, what we've lost isn't greater than what we've gained.

* Not my church, by the way -- just one I photographed while in Wales.
** "…the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, the Breaking of Bread and prayers" – Acts 2:42