By Dale Buchanan
This space in the Grape Leaf concerns itself primarily with “a person from the pews.” Today our attention is slightly different. Instead of singling out an individual person, the focus will be on the group in the pews. Your scribe makes no claim of a particularly objective report as I do my best to describe the assembled multitude in the pews this past Easter Sunday.
We, that is Gayle, her daughter Hilary, son-in-law Glen, and myself, arrived early. The plan being to beat the Easter-only crowd. I grumbled a bit because my favorite parking space was occupied. Gayle scolded me. I took out my walker and trudged across the street. At the front door all thoughts of grumpiness were erased from my mind. In the foyer the ushers were all smiles and embraces as they greeted the throng passing through the front doors.
I parked my walker and grabbed a cushion so graciously provided—my how I love this place! I waited my turn to enter the sanctuary and upon entering stood awestruck until the pressure of those behind compelled me to move forward and down the aisle.
Believe it or not, my accustomed pew was still available with space for all of us. I arranged my cushion on the pew and sat down to observe.
My visual senses were immediately saturated—unfolding before my eyes was beauty. I don’t really know the names of those anonymous pew persons whose labor of love transformed the Big Red sanctuary into not just a beautiful building but a sanctified and holy place of worship. The details of the decorating process were beyond this chronicler’s ability to describe. What I do know is that artistic, reverent hands and eyes arranged the details into a pleasing whole that lifted our spirits heavenwards.
As I gazed in wonder at the glories so exquisitely presented to help us in our worship, I became aware of the music. True enough, Big Red is rightly famous for its music. But this was beyond special. Violin, piano, organ, coronet, handbells, and choir all rang the rafters with praise.
Our children on the chancel steps reminded me that Jesus said, “Suffer them to come unto me.” And suffer them we did! The multitude of little ones brought us joy with smiles, laughter, and raucous enthusiasm. Then in a solemn moment, Pastor Raygan led these children in the Lord’s Prayer which they had been learning the last few Sundays.
The liturgy seemed inspired to lead us into spiritual closeness as we shared together the spoken word. And Pastor Raygan affirmed that “God is still speaking.” A highlight of the morning was Pastor Raygan moving among us and rebaptizing us using a palm leaf dipped in water and sprinkled across the congregation.
Listening to the resounding organ postlude and reflecting on Pastor Raygan’s telling of the old, old story, I realized that all of the above details had coalesced into a whole—the very essence of the Easter story. I looked around at all my fellow Christians—the Easter-only Christians and the every-Sunday Christians. What brings us all together? Surely it is the gospel story that demands we gather at least once a year in common cause to remember.