Picture a depressing scene. No, no, more fluorescent lighting! More! OK, you’re getting close.
Now make the space like nineteen times bigger than it needs to be. So that the modest gathering seems even smaller than it is.
OK, now, only tiny styrofoam cups to drink from. No, not fresh coffee! Coffee brewed like an hour ago. Now, fill everybody’s styrofoam plates with cold Asian noodles. Somebody made them early this morning.
The space is big, like a gymnasium. Because it is a gymnasium. It’s the multi-purpose room of our church building. We are gathered here for after-mass coffee hour. And I don’t want to be here. But the priest asked me to stay.
Now, fill the table with the meekest people in New York. Make them kind, interesting, humble. Give them life stories. Make them devoted to God.
There’s the awkward young guy who does a Bible study for teens every Friday night. There’s the widow who tells you how she organizes her weekly meals and cares for houseplants. There’s Sylvan, whose birthday it is, so she made a cake for everybody.
I told the priest I don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to stay for these things. I don’t want to build relationships. Ever since my own church went full heretic (never go full heretic), I am jaded. I’ve lost hope for what church can be, and should be. I just want to show up, take communion, and go home.
But I stay, because he asked me to, and I’m glad I stayed. I know church is supposed to be much more than a weekly meeting. It’s supposed to be a family, a transformative power. The expression of God on the earth.
And in a little while I’ll probably start to hope again.