Creator Clinton - "A Family of Friends"
Recently, we attended a memorial service at a very large “mega church” just north of Madison. Located in an industrial area, it was obvious that the building had originally been a manufacturing plant or warehouse/distribution center. It had very large parking lots on either side, and was visibly pleasing in its renovated form.
Entering through the main entrance, you walk into an impressive facility with a wide hallway with contemporary signage and decorations. The Auditorium where the service was held was a huge space, seating of probably a thousand or more. Having spent a lot of my life in various types of stage productions, I was taken by the lighting, the sound system, the stage, the movie size projection screens, and all the black areas of the walls and the ceiling. All in all, quite an impressive performance facility.
Though the young preacher was sincere, articulate and well amplified, since there was no intimacy in the large room, the service ended up feeling more like a performance than a requiem for the deceased. However, many of those in attendance, probably two hundred or more, who were obviously members of the church appeared moved by the service. But it was definitely not what I am used to. As we left, I felt like I was leaving a theatrical performance or concert rather than a memorial service. Just me…old school I guess.
Being a cradle Catholic in the small town of Vicksburg, I spent my life visiting the churches and chapels associated with the two parishes of the town. They were always quiet and contained a strong ambiance of reverence. Early on, I became accustomed to spending silent and alone times kneeling at a pew, seeking answers and expressing gratitude. The chapel at the Mercy Hospital is where many fears and prayers were left in the hands of God, knowing the doctors and nurses were doing their best.
For the past few years as an officer of the Church of the Creator, I have been entrusted with a key to the church. Not the proverbial “church key” that I abused in high school, but the actual key to the building, including the sanctuary. Every now and then, I take the liberty to use the key to take advantage of the solitude and alone time in our sanctuary. On some days, I will venture to casually ask God, “Hey, Man, what’s going on with You?” I’ve learned over the years that if you listen properly, He will actually tell you. A recent visit was one of those days when God told me what was on His mind, and mine as well.
Instead of taking a seat this time, I walked up to the altar and looked around the space. I pictured the men and women who give of themselves and serve, whether doing the readings, dispensing from the chalice or assisting the minister in his service. I heard in my mind our pastor delivering one of his well thought out and meaningful homilies, while the congregation smiles at one of his anecdotes that helps us all to understand his message. I looked over and pictured the young people who serve as acolytes, dutifully serving those on the altar.
I slowly walked over and stood next to the large pipe organ and recalled the people who have sat in that seat and shared their talent to support the choir and the congregation in their hymns. I looked at the chair in front of the rail and remembered the people who have taken on the role to direct and guide the choir. I looked at the rows of chairs and pictured the people who give of their time to come to rehearsal, then dutifully give of themselves during the service to bring a solemnity and joy to the congregation. I smiled as I recalled how the choir always sounds like it is many times larger than the few members that stand there.
I turned and walked down a couple of pews and pictured the people that I have known and grown to love through the years. I walked over to the space where Linda and I usually sit, then turned and gazed around the sanctuary, again picturing the people that have their special seats as well. I could hear in my heart the joy and laughter that fills the building during the peace and how great it feels to shake hands and receive hugs from so many wonderful people. Then, how our pastor must call us to order again so that we can continue the service.
Walking back by the altar, I ventured over to the columbarium and smiled as I read some of the names of those who have gone to their rest in our sanctuary. Love filled my being to think of what a wonderful final resting place it must be to have your remains settled in a place filled with so much love and joy. I turned and took a panoramic view of the church, remembering all of the people that have become friends with me, with Linda, and with each other. As I looked back at the columbarium, God told me what was on His mind.
I began to realize that not only are we very close friends, but…we are family. And then the clarity came. We are truly a “family of friends,” people who freely and selflessly share our love and our Faith with each other…now…and for all of eternity.
Love and Prayers,
A Family Member of the Church of the Creator.