Thursday, July 6, 2017

Last night on the pier


My husband is one of the leaders of a radical little church in Harlem, and this summer, they're doing Wednesday evening prayers on the pier. I was raised in the church, my mother a prayer warrior of no mean order, but really I hated sitting through those interminable 6 a.m services every Sunday morning. And my whole childhood, I couldn't quite believe our parents were making us go back for Sunday School at 4 p.m. It was always a highly unwelcome interruption of whatever fun I'd been having that day, usually a family gathering of some sort, which would now be cut short. The only good part of Sunday School was when Uncle Victor would pick us up afterward—my brother, my two cousins, and me—and he'd take us all for cane juice and ice cream at an outdoor parlor called CeeBees. We'd sit on wrought iron benches on the flagstone verandah, the ice cream dripping onto our church clothes, the sun setting overhead. I haven't thought of that in decades, but the memory just flashed right back shimmery and clear.

A bit to my surprise, I married a devout church man, though not a proselytizer. The church he chose for our family is all about deeds—feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, ministering to the poor, the sick, the addicted, the disabled, the lonely, the disenfranchised. The members of that little church are always in the street, marching for causes, putting their shoe leather on the line. But when my man heads to Sunday morning services, I am seldom with him. Maybe I had my fill of church pews (although not church hymns) as a child. But church outdoors, there has always been something about that that appeals to me, nothing between my prayers and the overarching sky. So last night after work I met my husband at the pier, along with a handful of congregation faithfuls, for a half hour of prayer and song. I felt lulled by the sound of the waves splashing against the pilings, and gentled by a fresh breeze coming off the river. 

A man who had been sitting on the pier, taking in the setting sun, decided to join us, and afterward he took this picture. "Let me take it," he said, "since I'm your newest member." He said he lived just up the hill and would be back next week. That's two of us.

9 comments:

  1. I always enjoy my Rabbi's services outdoors though our summer whether is simply too hot for them. They are usually in the Fall or Winter, and our congregation does a lot of social justice stuff as well. Nice photo.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can see how an outdoor, riverside service would seem closer to God, however one imagines him/her! I was never a fan of church as a kid, and I'' sure I'd be even LESS a fan if the services were at 6 a.m.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really like your post today!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. If I were to be in a church I think that's the one I would choose.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wonderful! Your Husband's Church sounds very much like the one I belong to that does Street Ministry in the Inner City and Prison Systems and it's always a Joy to do Service for underserved Community members. I agree tho' that there is nothing quite like Worship under the Sky rather than in any building, it is how I grew up Worshipping since my Dad was Native American and very Spiritual and in tune with Nature. We didn't grow up Worshipping like most Church folk and I tried it, but it wasn't for me either. It's such a personal thing, Spirituality and Relationship with the Creator, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I pray when I take my walk in the morning. I'm not religious, just mostly celebrate the Jewish traditions but I'm spiritual and I like it. It soothes me to know there is something bigger than me.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Outdoors is a good place to think about big ideas! And although I'm not a church goer, hymns are some of the most beautiful music there is, in my opinion. It's good to find new things to do together as partners, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  8. That church sounds like mine, lots of good deeds going on and joy being spread. Being on the pier is a fabulous idea, under the sky and meeting new people there.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The Church of the Outdoors! You can't help but connect to a higher power when you go outside and let it happen. XXOO

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...