I thought I knew what I was doing. But when I got there the door was locked.
The park I’d strolled through along the way, at a little before 5 p.m. the first Saturday in July, was looking particularly pretty — I almost called the attempt good enough. But the bells I’d heard from a different church just a couple blocks away kept reverberating subliminally in my mind.
The last time I’d been inside St. Joe’s in Red Wing was in early March 2020. That was a long time ago. I was only a minute or two late, and not the last one to let the outside door close a little too loudly. There were signs up about not using the kneelers. The set up for communion included putting framed sections of plexiglass into position. When others moved forward to commune, I went to the area where I’d sat in a big arm chair years ago for book studies. The chairs were gone, but the walled-in garden area was looking good.
The presider had sat regally up front in green robes and led the congregation in song, sans any instrumental accompaniment. He referred to filling the pulpit other years for the Fourth of July weekend.
He talked about “the cost of war,” reading a letter about how cold it was in the tents in northern Korea.
Earlier that day, I’d read excerpts from letters written to friends of my parents when their daughter was a missionary nurse in Vietnam. She commented on enjoying the food at locals’ homes, becoming familiar with all the night noises — what kind of artillery how far away going in what direction — and babies; one who didn’t make it and one who did.
The familiar words of “lift up your heart,” sounded slightly more like a reprimand to me that day than usual (similar to perhaps being told to clean up your room, or pick up your stuff). I kinda needed that. An unfamiliar scripture reading early in the service went “keep me from being too elated,” (not sure why — I could go for a thorough dose of elation) followed by the very familiar “grace is sufficient.”
As the bread and wine were being presented I noticed the words “similar way” and realized I’d been anticipating “like manner.” Regardless, I decided I liked the freedom and similar manner with which worshipers politely leaned in to greet each other in uplifting ways.