Sunday, April 29, 2018


Sunday used to be a bright, shiny day back in Portland, Oregon in the 1990s, no matter what the weather was like. It was church day. 'Sunday go to meetin' day', and the high point of the week. We would all get dressed in our Sunday best, and the kids would complain, and the wife would claim she had 'nothing to wear' and the middle daughter would have to be dragged away from the mirror and reminded that we were not going to a fashion show or a beauty pageant while the older one, hidden somewhere within a cocoon of blankets, might require an examination for signs of life--but finally, all of us, or at least some of us, would pile into the Izuzu Trooper and head down the road to Portland Christian Center.

It was a fairly large church, by Portland standards--a mildly Pentacostal church under the Assemblies of God denomination, pastored by Bill Wilson, a tall, fit, immensely warm-hearted man who made everyone feel like a personal friend. My wife and I were both in the choir of about 100 singers, give or take, and we would sing every Sunday in both services, morning and noon.

Because we were in the choir, we would arrive to church early for the pre-service choir practice, presided over by music director Ron Cochran. In the choir room there would be coffee and doughnuts and a buzz of conversation and chatter while we all put on our long choir robes and got ready for the vocal warm-up.

Every Sunday, though always the same, was somehow always new, somehow a once in a lifetime ceremony. As we lined up in the hall to enter the sanctuary with the sounding of the orchestra, my body and mind seemed alive with a mildly though pleasantly nervous anticipation. We would enter singing and file into our assigned places and tiers on the platform before a beaming church body, on their feet, clapping, raising hands to the air, singing along. 

I was a new Christian in those days, in the '90s, and I had a lot to learn over the years to come--but what I did know was that my heart had somehow become different, that I was fully myself, yet somehow fully new as well. Something (everything) had changed, and it was a joyful, exhilarating change. It was something like having discovered buried treasure, excavating and removing each precious artifact one by one and making it your own. It is difficult to describe this feeling of discovery, of awakening. It is something that is real and authentic at the time, and it is something that fades and reforms and grows polished and personal over time, like a beloved heirloom. It is like love, which starts out so electrically in the flesh and then by-and-by sinks in, if it is strong and true, to the marrow and to the blood. 

After church, we would always go out to lunch, and often with our friends, Arnie and Ruth. That was part of Sunday, too. It was a full, delicious day to the end. Come Monday, I would be back to the workplace for the week, putting in my eight hours a day; and the skies might begin to dim by Friday, but that was okay, because Sunday was always on its way!

I miss those days now--and yet, they were always only for a time, for a season. Things change, people change, sometimes people don't change--but the memory is perfectly intact, and blesses me through the veil of time, and leaves me again, thankful. 


Christoph said...

I consider myself being an atheist, but very often I think I start to understand what religious people are getting from their beliefs, kind of the „spiritual benefits“ of it and (surprise, surprise!) I envy them a bit. Especially when I hear somebody speaking about the good memories they got from it, because maybe these memories are important to have and keep.

R.W. Boughton said...

Chris--I was an atheist, for all practical purposes, till round about age 40; then, as we would say in the American vernacular, "I done give it up".