“Miss Lily, if you are comfortable with it, my wife and I would love for you to sit with us in the sanctuary. But we understand if you’d like to sit somewhere else, or by yourself, or with someone from the Sunday school class you just left,” Fred said.
“Thank you, Mr. Fred. It’s okay. I’ll sit by myself. I do look forward to meeting your wife, however,” Lily said.
“Well, she’s a saint–to have put up with me for these many years. She’s the vocal one, the strong one. I prefer to serve in different ways. Guess I fit best behind the scenes, you know?”
“Yessir, I do,” Lily said, grateful that God placed men like Fred in a world of Beths.
“Well, Miss Lily, Ellen and I sit over there,” Fred said, pointing towards the right side of the nave. “Is there anything else I may do for you right now?” he asked.
“No, sir. Not right now. Thank you so much for showing me to a class this morning, and walking me to the sanctuary,” Lily said.
Fred nodded, and then walked towards his wife and their seats.
Lily surveyed the back of women and men’s heads from the rear of the sanctuary, in deciding where to sit. Lily first noticed the women wearing hats. Others made their ways in the nave as if pride was their cosmetic.
Men’s necks and collars told stories, too. Lily saw some men’s necks were lined and leathered from toil in the sun. Some men, Lily thought, were physical laborers. Their hands and neck muscles differed from the retirees who only golfed or fished. Still other men wore suits and gold watches that they displayed more often than they needed to in order to tell time.
Lily was middle-aged, so sitting with the youth group on the left of the nave was out of the question. She was sure she taught many of the youth at Covenant anyway, so she decided upon a pew six rows behind Fred and his wife.
Fred and Ellen were old enough to be Lily’s parents, but she liked them already, even though she was yet to even meet Ellen. They just seemed comfortable with their standing. They dressed humbly and yet, Lily could already tell, they were respected.
There was a young married couple at the other end of the pew Lily decided upon, so she found a seat without much notice.
Music had begun. The sanctuary began filling, and conversations tapered off. “Good morning, Beulah,” said a smiling man who stepped forward in the chancel. Lily assumed he was the pastor.
“We are glad you are here today. If you are a visitor, please take time to complete a visitor’s card this morning, and drop it in the offering plates when they come around in a few minutes. Please know that we are thankful you’ve come this morning to worship with us at Beulah.”
He was about Lily’s age, of medium build, with a two-piece brown suit that could’ve been purchased at the local mall. Lily watched his eyes, to see if he looked into the congregation’s eyes as he spoke. He did.
The pastor continued. “Will you pray with me, please? ‘Our Father, we confess we don’t deserve your grace, but you’ve demonstrated it in the person and work of Christ. And we say, thank you, Lord, today. Will you speak to your people? And may we behold Christ, who is enough. Amen.’”
The words to a worship song appeared on screens above the choir loft. The music and words continued to grow. Soon the gathered congregation sang:
Great is your faithfulness, oh God
You wrestle with the sinner’s heart
You lead us by still waters into mercy
And nothing can keep us apart.
So, remember your people
Remember your children,
Remember your promise, oh God
Lily joined in singing–quietly at first. She discovered she was deepening into family and mystery.
(To be continued)