Inside our dark church on Good Friday, 2021

by Cynthia Beach Guthrie, April 9, 2021

I was surprised at how my heart jumped when our rector Kristine offered time slots for families or individuals to go into the church for ten minutes of private prayer on Good Friday. My first thought was I would actually be able go inside our beloved lovely little red church, whether I prayed there or not. It had been a whole year after all. So I signed up.

As I walked up the side of the church on Good Friday afternoon, I could see Pastor Kristine in her white robes and Karin Forno. They had just completed the Veneration of the Cross in the courtyard. They greeted me, both masked, and Karin gave me a piece of note paper to mark the pew where I sat to identify it so it could be wiped clean afterwards. I used the hand sanitizer outside the door and went into the sanctuary.

The lights were off and it was dark inside. The Cross on the main altar was dressed in a black veil for the somber celebration of Good Friday. I could feel in my bones that the stone was still rolled up against the Tomb. I walked tentatively down the length of the main aisle, gazed at the stained glass windows, then turned around and walked slowly back towards the Cross. I was torn between the main story of Good Friday and the joy of the physical act of being in my church once again.

Because I already knew the ending to the Story, I began to feel lighter. I could “see” the greeters and the sidesmen mingling in the back of the church; I could “see” people in their usual pews. Dick and I were in ours, midway up, right side on the very end of the aisle. I “saw” Celeste Ventura cradling an infant so her mother could go to Communion. I could “see” the choir, including old friends Peg and Dave Wittrock, and all our priests, from Father Dwight to Pastor Kristine, process  to the altar.   I finally knelt in the second pew, looked to my left and  “saw” Annette Foise and Carolyn Bluemle as they exchanged the Peace. I was one pew back from where the Eugene Loh family usually sits.  I smiled and thought of  them on their bikes just before they walked the full length of the right side aisle to take their seats in the front pew. I was home and thanked God for it.

But I also became aware, in a profound way, as lovely as our church is and how grateful I was to Pastor Kristine for affording me the opportunity to go back inside the building itself, that the Church is not the building. It never was. The Church is the community of God’s people whether inside the building, out in the broader community, or on Zoom.

As we move ahead these coming months, we have to feel our way to the new normal in and outside the Little Red Church that Cares, St. Mary’s by-the-Sea. I know it hasn’t been, isn’t now and won’t be an easy task to walk this path.  None of us has a map for it, so I remain infinitely grateful to Kristine and Wendy and Scott who lead the way and  to all the members/saints of our St. Mary’s family.  Together, We are the Church.

Thanks be to God!