The smell of varnish permeates the old theater as a small group of believers shuffle in for worship. Hushed conversations and the sound of a baby crying fill the small space.
She sits nervously picking at her fingernails hoping no one will notice the stain on her shirt or the scars on her forearms. She pulls her sleeve cuffs back over her wrists and takes a deep breath.
A boisterous laugh echoes through the theater causing her to turn her head. She sees a large, jolly man in khaki shorts and a flannel shirt talking to a young man about her age. She relaxes a little and watches as the band files on to the stage.
Nothing about this church is familiar. She remembers only the elaborate organ pipes that stretched from near the floor to the ornate ceiling in the church of her youth. Here there is no organ. Only guitars and drums and casually dressed parishioners.
Someone sits down a few seats away from her and she thinks about bolting. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Her heartbeat accelerates. She stares intensely at her own feet and holds her breath. “When the music starts, I’ll leave,” she decides.
She hears a sniffle next to her and looks for the first time at her neighbor. He is an older man, hair fully gray. He holds a handkerchief in his hand with an embroidered purple daisy on it. It is wet. She notices tears slowly streaming down his face.
Her heart floods with compassion for him. Her own tears start to fall involuntarily.
Without a word she moves closer to him and lays a shaking hand onto his. The scar on her wrist is visible, but it doesn’t matter to her anymore.
The man’s shoulders fall and he lets out the grief he’s been holding in too long. His sobs fill the theater just as the music begins. She puts her arm around him. His tears fall heavy on her shoulder.
This is church.
James 1:27a – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
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