Monday, July 10, 2006

Church Bells

Another Sunday has passed with church bells pealing through the calm morning and myself cocooned in my own life and paying no heed to the call. No confession, no penance, no praise and no prayers.

No humbling of myself before an eternal force that may or may not direct our lives for better or worse.

But today those deep tolling tones stirred a few thoughts in me. Thoughts of the days of youth, sitting in church whiling the minutes away sucking a peppermint as the preacher waxed poetic/didactic about the rewards of heaven/perils of hades.

But you know, I enjoyed the singing! I have never considered that before. At the evening service the pastor would call for requests and I would weekly attempt to have an anthemic psalm of gravity added to the playlist: "Lead on oh King Eternal" or "Amazing Grace". Something evocative of a mission or cause to march for....

And while sounding those words of high purpose and heavy import - despite my frightful inability to hold a tune or produce a sound that approaches pleasant - I think I felt 100% free and at one with the people around me. I felt integrated into a group with a common purpose and shared thoughts and feelings.

A feeling that occurs seldom in my life, to be certain.

This was even true in Korea, where my partner was a devoted church goer and a true Christian in the sense that she questioned her faith daily and challenged herself to make it relevant in her life. She wasn't someone who just went to church once a week for confirmation of her holiness and goodness.

And I sang in that Korean church. I understood nary of a word of the sermon presented nor the psalms sung in unison with a people of another land, culture and language. Those moments singing may have been some of the moments that I felt most at one in my chosen home country.

Again, a feeling hard to come by for a foreigner in a foreign land.

Which leaves me wondering where that feeling of belonging comes from at this point in my life. Where is the thing in my life that dials me into my community, makes me feel at one with those I walk among as a stranger?

It would be wrong to go to a church and recite creeds and receive communion simply to experience a sense of belonging - it would be akin to being an Ed Norton at a support group for cancer survivors. But now I think I understand his compulsion a little more...

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