Once, a long time ago, I knew a very quiet teenage girl named Laura. She didn’t speak up much, but always had a small, sly observation on the scene around her. Sometimes, she and Emily would put on formalwear from the late 1960’s and their alter egos, The Sexy Sisters, would sing disco songs for our side-splitting delectation.
When Laura decided to go into the ministry, I was pretty awed. It’s a long process, to become a Unitarian minister. I knew she’d do it; I also knew I never could.
The ordination service was nothing like I expected, and also everything I expected. Stilt-walking didgeridoo player? Check. Hawaiian leis? Check. Speakers in foolish jester hats? Check. You know. All that serious stuff for such a serious occasion.
But that’s what happens at this church. I should know this by now: The momentous is not necessarily serious. Laughter is as likely as solemnity, and the unexpected shows us different ways of thinking about things. The jester stuff is an homage to the Faithful Fools, a street ministry group in San Francisco, with whom Laura has worked. Their premise is very Unitarian, and very central to Laura’s ideology, that every life matters. Hey, it makes sense to us. So why not have a foolish ordination?
Then, of course, at the reception in the hall, there were the old friends to catch up with: Jeff got married, had a baby, and moved to San Francisco, Crystal avoided getting married and is thankful. Emily is working at a chi chi restaurant, but she doesn’t really dig the food. Rob is a gentleman farmer in Parksville, with step kids and a tweed coat.
We are so much older than the teenagers we were, hanging out in our sunny corner room on Sunday mornings, “Psychedelic Sundays” piped in from the classic rock station. Now, our lives are well into the second and even third acts. But we still remember the easy relationships we had with one another, and how much we laughed together. In that space, at the church, it’s easy to remember that we are miles away from those kids we were, and that those kids are right there with us, all the time.
Dismantling the decorations in the hall, packing leftovers for the street kids’ drop-in centre and on-strike library workers, I felt the comfort of that community embrace me again. None of the people in the kitchen needed the labels on the drawers and cupboards; everything has been in the same place for twenty years or more. (Except the toothpicks! They moved the toothpicks. Why?) The easy familiarity of the place meant things got done smoothly and efficiently.
This is why people come back to church. Because it feels like home.