I actually love our little church with its super liberal, multi racial, multi faith, gender fluid, artsy, academic, streetwise, non-proselytizing and gloriously oddball congregation. Everyone comes as they are, even the agnostics, and feels seen. Though I had been inside the sanctuary maybe once since Covid lock downs started in March 2020, I went last week for Palm Sunday, as my husband was playing the role of Pontius Pilate and also the soldier who takes Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane in the passion play. It was a serious piece of theater, directed by a vestry member who is a university professor of the performing arts in her other life, and she meant for her passion players to do the material justice.
Last year, she and my husband sat around our dining table for many many hours taping the passion play as a piece of Zoom theater. This year, it is once again live, as everything is now reopened, and I figured I should go and support my husband, after all his stories about our friend Celia (the director) looking into the actors' eyes and asking intently, "What do you think this person is really trying to say here? From where do you think this arises inside them?" Or questions of that sort. My man did a wonderful job of emoting, as did all the players. When I walked in at the start of the service, Celia came over and hugged me and then issued a warning: "Don't you dare wave at your husband while he's on stage." "I wouldn't dream of it," I assured her.
The thing that was so lovely about last week Sunday was that even though I had been so scarce for almost two years, everyone welcomed me as if I was a part of it all, and I remembered what my Aunt Winnie used to say about that church. Back when our son was born, and my husband was looking for a place to have him baptized (he hadn't established a New York City faith home yet), Aunt Winnie sent him to investigate a little Harlem church where the White minister was a member of the Black Panther Party, and had marched with Dr. King (and played the role of Tom Hanks father in the movie Philadelphia) and where Aunt Winnie said, "No matter how long I stay away, they always remember my name."
So it's Easter. My husband rose bright an early to go down to the flower district and choose his blooms, as he always creates the altar arrangements for this day, in honor of his parents. It is a cheerful task for him, evoking memories of doing Easter arrangements with his mother that lighten his heart. I on the other hand awoke with an aching nostalgia for my family of origin, the gathering in each other’s homes after Easter morning services, playing with my cousins in the yard while our parents prepared the feast, the huge circle of us saying grace, rituals I had no idea that I’d so sorely miss, back when I was living them without understanding how surrounded by love and care I was. But I have community still, people who always remember my name and welcome me in, and I recognize the gift that is, the door held open for me, no questions asked, no matter how long I have stayed away.
Update on Easter: That's my husband getting ready to take the traditional Easter day
"family photo" of the congregation and our lovely minister in the
foreground, wrangling everybody. After the service and photos there was a pot luck and coffee hour in the garden, and then the man and I went to brunch, where I got quite plastered on half a margarita, which occasioned a delicious afternoon nap once we got back home.