At the memorial service for my friend, Bill, a number of weeks ago, I ran into my former pastor, Tom, without a doubt, one of the best speakers, and the best Christian thinker I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing. I had that privilege for some 12 years, until he decided, or was forced (depending on how you look at it) to step down, but that’s another post.
I said hello to him at the tea afterward, and asked how he was enjoying retirement. Turns out, he isn’t, not yet, at any rate – he’s been ‘subbing’ for a local downtown Baptist church while they seek a new pastor. I couldn’t believe my good fortune – I was going to have an opportunity to hear Tom C. speak again, before he retired for good!
The following Sunday I went downtown and entered the church. I should say that it’s on the next block over from the local homeless shelter; on this day, as it happened, they had tables set up in the foyer for people to sign up for one of several service opportunities that would be conducted on an upcoming Saturday – the overall project was called ‘Serving the City’. I was very happy to see this – I’ve been concerned, for some time, that my church is not at all active in its semi-rural community, but is, instead, inwardly-focused (again, a topic worthy of its own post). I signed up for a stint with a local charity that collects donations of all sorts and ships them to Third World countries.
Back to the service – as I entered, the worship team, on the stage, was in full swing. At my church I skip the worship (music) portion of the service, because I don’t listen to Christian contemporary radio, and therefore don’t know most of the songs the worship leader sings (as opposed to ‘leads us in worship with’ – there, that’s the trifecta for other blog post topics) – but this ‘session’ was pleasant enough, and concluded with one of my favourite hymns – the old Irish ‘Be Thou My Vision’ – it raises a lump in my throat, every time I sing it, not just for the tune, which is beautiful, but of course for the words.
Then Tom got up and spoke, and he was classic Tom. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d heard him give the same sermon at our previous church, but it mattered not – a great thought is a great thought, and worth being reminded of from time to time. I was very, very glad I’d come out. After the benediction, I sat and spoke with the lady next to me, and as I explained why I was there, I had great difficulty in restraining some tears, but it was true what I said to her: I had not come because I worship Tom in any way, but because I hear God speaking to me through him. It was one of those moments when I didn’t know I thought that until I heard myself say it. “Joan” was very kind, and again, I was glad to have come.
Out in the foyer, afterward, I went over to say hello to Tom’s wife – grace personified – who was talking with a lady who seemed vaguely familiar. Turns out she had attended the previous church at the same time I’d been there, but we’d never met. And this is where it got a bit sticky – the conversation turned to small groups, and when I shared that I’ve usually had trouble finding a group I felt comfortable in, because of my singleness, she said “Oh, you should come out with our ladies’ group – there are singles, marrieds, widows, everyone is there”. She invited me to come to an upcoming symphony concert (even if I could afford it, it would bore me stiff) or a weekday morning walk along Dallas Road (sorry, I’ll be at work) – the same old, same old situation: as a single, I have to support myself, I don’t have a man paying the bills so that I can stay home. I’m a square peg in a round hole. I missed my chance at ‘marrying years’ (19-29, apparently) due to my being away from the Lord after my mother’s untimely death. Everyone’s matched off like Noah’s Ark’s animals. It hit me rather forcefully, on the way home – it’s the Christian norm to find a mate, settle down and raise a family. Period. Singles, apparently, aren’t a part of God’s plan. I’ve given up on the hope of being married, therefore, wonderful Christian men should be, theoretically, breaking down my door. As if.
I’ll go hear Tom speak again, but that’s it.