August 1, and now an almost empty sanctuary, at last and again, my fumbling along the rows of oaken pews creating slight echoes inside gathered silences. Here it was, my accustomed place to sit, after a seventeen month long closing of the sanctuary due to the threats and wretched triumphs of Covid spreading and reaching and gaining among the people across the country and world. Death and Fear and ever more Death haunted our days. And now and here—here in this place, now again my place—I sat and waited and closed my eyes, and it all began to seem again like a quiet and very real welcoming.
Something, a heard presence among the hushed harmonies of the sanctuary, opened my eyes again, now to see seated on the dais up front Raleigh Kincaid, for long years a gracious leader and companion and friend. Now aware of other motions toward the back rows of pews, I detected voices I knew well—Bob and Mary Kathryn Tri, David and Judy Hatch, Gerard Howell, the Wallace family, Rachel Childress—and more and then more: gradually, graciously they came in and began such a lovely company, a fellowship, a church.
Then, my dear wife, Diane, came to sit by me, as the ministerial staff—Raleigh, Aaron Austin, Mark Johnson, Charles Conkin—took their places up front; and piano music played by Mark de Alba began to scatter the silences, just as my cherishing imagination began, one by one, peopling the sanctuary with those whom death had taken away over the years, each a familiar person to me once, and now in a subtle and yet palpable and renewing companionship.
August 1, 2021–a new and renewing beginning—and once more, a call “Good morning, and Welcome to Central Baptist Church.” Among the hesitating and scattered answering good mornings, there came an even more deeply felt response from within me: Good Morning. Amen and Amen and Amen.
The service was ready, and had already begun.
This reflection is part of our church archives project to preserve records of our life together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though we still find ourselves in the midst of this exceptional time, we hope these reflections will serve not only as accounts of where we’ve been, but as reminders that we are not alone, and encouragement that we journey forward together. We’d love to hear your reflections too! We will only publish reflections to our blog with the authors' consent. To submit or find out more, contact Pat Ingram (email@example.com).
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