‘Church-Hopping’

1 Nov

Officially, Halloween has ended. But, for us, October 31st was spent church-hopping. For several months, we’ve been “looking” at new churches, the way freshman girls scout sorrorities during rush week, only, without all the alcohol–but for a little communion wine.

We’d gotten a flyer last week from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in our neighborhood. It looked promising. The fact that October 31st celebrated Martin Luther’s Reformation seemed intriguing to me. Afterall, violin girl had read the definitive book, “Here I Stand,” two years ago and passed it along to her father to read so that she could take up more serious discussions about her faith, which began to question some of  his Presbyterian upbringing and her infant induction into his church–hence our recent church-hopping adventure. The fact that the Lutheran Church was set just two walking blocks from our home, made Sunday’s prospect all the more appealing.

There was no hiding, once inside the lovely vestibule. There were so many pews from which to choose and no one was willing to help choose the best one. As church-hoppers, all must choose their seats carefully, so as not to be too evident to the regulars. We tend to choose those situated in the back, so that if we decide the church just doesn’t quite fit, we can discreetly exit, thereby avoiding the inevitable rush of eager parishioners decending upon fresh Christian meat.

As I stated earlier, there was no hiding. No hiding, because there were no more than 22 souls awaiting the morning’s service. Granted, so many churches, including our designated member church, are losing bodies, but this church had the fewest we’ve visited, thus far.  Not one for number crunching, we took our seats; I, ignoring the boys’ admonitions of my choice as payback for their earlier refusal to help in the making of said choice.

I had never been to a Lutheran service and I found it to be anything but staid. It had this nice balance of chanting minister, give-and-take of the parishioners, and an easy flow of song  and short prayers that made the whole thing intimate. But, the best thing about it was the communion. Where else can you get a piece of rustic wheat bread and a swig of wine on a Sunday morning? Sure, the Presbyterians and the Methodists, along with the Orthodox and Catholics give you the same, but the Lutheran bread was better than good and the wine seemed stronger than I remembered at the designated church.

The bread at our Presbyterian church, and I use the term “our” very lightly at this point–hence, the church-hopping, is stingy in texture and amount. Admittedly, tasty, but unfit for communion status. Some breads were not really breads as much as they were small and insignificant as oyster crackers. The only other communion bread I’ve found praise-worthy was the bread baked by my grandmother, as she was the official communion bread baker. My grandfather was one of the priests of my childhood Orthodox church, back in Cleveland.

She baked the communion bread each week in her old stove that was in her basement. It was like a Wonder Bread factory down there–shuffling in and out the rectangular loaves she’d cut into 2-inch rectangular pieces ready for the  2 large rattan baskets, held by a couple of alter boys from esteemed church families. My grandmother’s bread was so tasty that the priest would have to admonish the parish regularly for taking several pieces of the divine bread, leaving little for the poor souls last in line.

Speaking of  “pour souls,” as we stood in the communion line, awaiting our Sunday rations, something strangely unfamiliar caught my eye. There, situated on a lonely wooden stool to the right of violin girl and me, was the familiar silver tray of church shot glasses. Only problem was, they were few in number and empty. Just then, violin girl, immediately ahead of me, turned to face me, and with an ominous whisper stated, “We’re too late! We should’ve waited until the others came up.”  I suddenly felt flush. What did she mean!? Wait for whom!? I thought we followed in the proper order. It wasn’t until I saw the empty shot glasses that I realized (so incorrectly) that they hadn’t considered that Reformation Day might bring a few more to the festivities. They hadn’t made plans for the unaccounted.

As I turned toward the minister, violin girl stood motionless, her hand held out awaiting whispered instruction from the man-of-the-cloth as to how to proceed in the taking of the bread and the receiving of the wine, which I soon saw in the hands of the minister’s right-hand man. There he was, smiling and happy to pour me the wine from his tiny silver vessel into my empty church shot glass.  My reverent steps couldn’t get me to our pew fast enough.

Post service, we were invited to stay and “break bread” with the congregation in celebration of Martin Luther. Potluck! Like most church potlucks, this didn’t disappoint. 
Tender roast pork slices, bean casseroles, potatoes of all sorts, and desserts to satisfy any sweet tooth/teeth. I often think that you can tell a congregation by the potluck items they provide. This one had possibilities, for sure. Of course, Kaukab would have a thing or two, three thousand to say of the green bean casserole, and I would certainly give her a pass on that particular one, but Kaukab’s not a Lutheran, so we won’t have to worry about that. 

We haven’t finished our church-hopping. We’re not in any hurry to make a final decision. We think that this go’round, we’ll let our faith lead us. Wherever that is, I just pray they’ll have really good bread.

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