My mom bought me a new suit. It was like back-to-school shopping in late October. She said I needed a new one, since the last one I got was about 10 years ago. She bought that one for me too. I’m 48 and sometimes I feel like I’m 4 or 8.
My wife went along with us this time in the role of fashion and reality consultant. That’s not unusual, though, since she normally buys my underwear for me as well. Trying to make her laugh, I picked out the gaudiest, Mad Men looking outfit I could find. Two guys walked past me, complimenting my choice and I realized I was even more clueless than I realized when it came to style.
The impetus for our suit shopping excursion is the closing ceremony for our church. A little over 50 years ago, Church Of Our Saviour in West Bloomfield began as a renegade Presbyterian affiliate. This Saturday, there’s a farewell dinner for the congregation, held appropriately enough, in a retirement community. Ever-shrinking numbers have signaled, for quite some time, that the end was near.
A bunch of amazing things happened at that church, like my first-ever book reading. My aunt and uncle, my sister, both of my brothers and I all got married there. We held my father’s memorial service in its impermanent sanctuary with the moveable chairs. I guess the parable of the portable pews should have given us a clue things wouldn’t last forever.
We’re going to miss C.O.O.S, as it’s come to be called. The flock has chosen a new place of worship; they’re merging with another church that has a vibrant outreach program. Another organization bought our church and grounds, so the shell will still be there. But my family’s still trying to decide what to do with my dad’s memorial plaque. Little decisions like that seem to hold the biggest concerns in their soulful pockets.
Abandoning a church I attended off and on since high school isn’t really a daunting task for me. The people are great but my mom’s still going to be in touch with them as they migrate to their new community. I told her, in what seemed a bit more profound than intended, that a church is more than just bricks and mortar.
So we’re toasting our dearly departed church this weekend with a loaves and fishes, (and prime rib), dinner. I’ll look around and see Wilma, who sang such a lovely aria at our wedding, Jerry who swung by the hospital when I was horribly sick, the amazing Karen — whom I met when I played King Herod — and was the first to serialize my stories in the church newsletter, and the empty chairs of the living and deceased. For it was the empty chairs that finally sunk C.O.O.S. My seat was one of the most regularly vacant ones, I’m afraid.
I’ve wandered, spiritually. Forgive me for that previous play on words, but it’s true. It’s tough to find a house of worship that incorporates Coincidence, Quantum Physics, Buddha, Mother Mary, Vishnu, Dead Ancestors and Love. The Church of Rodney isn’t going to be finding a storefront branch anytime soon.
But hey, I’ve got a new suit, thanks to Mom. After this weekend I’ll be all dressed up, with no place to go. This isn’t about me though. This one goes out to everyone who made me feel warm and welcome for so many years at Church Of Our Saviour. Even though I probably didn’t show my appreciation nearly as much as I could have, you folks embodied everything a church should stand for.
And here’s a quick note to that new church over in Farmington, where most of my mom’s friends are heading. That wandering flock of smiling, graying, well-dressed congregants you’re seeing? Look out, things just got a lot cooler at your place and yes, a little more rowdy. Their crepe breakfasts can resurrect you and their piano player can rock your roof off.
See you in the narthex for coffee!
As an added bonus, not found on other websites, here’s a link to a story from
my book, Spiritual Wanderer, about the church I used to call home.