By Helen Thompson
I’ve recently become fascinated with home improvement shows on HGTV, especially those that talk about fixing up a place on the cheap. Sometimes, it faintly reminds me of watching MacGyver when I was a teenager. They make household furniture out of paper clips and dry ice while window treatments created from repurposed cheese doodles really make that room pop! For those of you not familiar with these shows, they use a tricky technique to make sure you don’t change the channel between room makeovers—they don’t put a commercial break between shows. Vroom! You’re hooked!
Just imagine what they could do for the vestry on a budget—new classy storage solutions for those nametags, stylish literature holders made from magazine holders spray-painted to resemble stained glass, and let’s not forget the crown moulding chair rail with the two-tone paint job in the narthex. Woo hoo!
We’re not strangers to changing floor plans. Full disclaimer: I was out of the church for 15 years. When I came back, many of the churches I went to had moved the altar forward and brought the Gospel into the aisles. And despite being completely churchless for a decade and a half, I had a typically Anglican response: I just really didn’t know how I felt about all that. But then, over time, I realized that these changes were meant to bring the Gospel and the Eucharist closer to me.
Another makeover that had taken place while I was gone was that the Peace had become more like a farmer’s market, with people wandering the aisles and chattering amongst each other, sometimes spending more time in this little walkabout than they did listening to the rector’s homily. I’d just sit there staring and feeling lost. I still do, to a certain extent because my constant moves and frequent weekend travel are balanced by a solid attachment to my internet faithspaces, making me something of a technomadic parishioner rather than a truly peripatetic one. The Peace, to me, has become an exercise in overcoming mild social anxiety. And I’m going through it again, having just moved to a new town with a wonderful church where the Peace doesn’t walk about as much and the Gospel is still read from the pulpit. And I find I miss the new stuff. You know how it is: how many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? (Everyone, all together now, clap your hands to your cheeks like you’re Home Alone and shriek, “CHAAAANNGGE??!”)
But, see, that’s what is so wonderful about the Church. I leave it for many years and come back to find it’s grown with me, so much so that I’m staying put. And while the rest of the communion squabbles and dickers over who’s sleeping with whom, I rest comfortably in the knowledge that I can sit comfortably between the Buddha and Paul, or between my conservative cousin and my aunt in the “unconventional” relationship, between my mistrustful-of-religion fiancé and my high-Anglican priestly friends. No matter whether I’m in an old stone country church or a contemporary worship structure or a coffeeshop with my emergent pals or the National Cathedral on a bright spring morning, no matter whether this week’s faithspace has had an extreme makeover, churchified edition, or involves being somewhere sliding down a rock face near the Potomac River, no matter how the seasons or the scenery or the steeples change, I’m still the one who comes through the doors—literal and metaphorical—and can barely catch my breath for all the beauty that surrounds me.
Thank you, God.
Helen Thompson, known on the faithblogging circuit as Gallycat, is a writer living in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She has written for the Philadelphia City Paper, RevGalBlogPals, Geez magazine and others. Visit her on the web at Gallycat’s Lounge.