“How many lights do you want? Something like this is less expensive than one with more lights.”
What WAS he talking about? The window contractor stood with me in the spare bedroom in my San Diego house. The goal was to replace two wooden windows (that didn’t work well and had to be propped open) with two aluminum windows that could actually be opened safely. The original windows were from the 40s.
“Each opening is a ‘light’. These windows have one light. We can put in windows with four lights. Strips of aluminum across so they look like French windows. They cost more but they look good.”
I opted for the cheaper ones. They were closer in appearance to the rest of the windows in the house, except the two we’d gotten for cheap at the swap meet and put in the kitchen. Besides, how is dividing ONE light making “more” lights? It was the same window, broken into fourths, actually offering less real light.
Today is Palm Sunday. I went to Lenten Lunch this past Friday at St. Stephens the Martyr, the local Episcopalian church. During Lent, the churches of Monte Vista serve Friday lunch on a rotating basis. It’s a wonderful thing. The purpose of my going was to talk to the young woman who is the Methodist minister about the coffee house project.
St. Stephens is a beautiful little stone chapel, built to replicate an actual village church in England. It was built by English immigrants to the San Luis Valley. It’s a small medieval structure here in the middle of the wild west. It very closely resembles the little church in Gfenn that inspired Martin of Gfenn.
Lenten lunch was the kind of lovely event I remember from my childhood and half thought had ceased to exist in the world, but all of that could be said of Monte Vista. There were four kinds of soup to choose from, four kinds of sandwiches, cookies. Attending was a group of 50 people from all the churches in Monte Vista. I have learned that the traditional denominations have very small memberships. I met many very nice people and was, once more, happy to be in Monte Vista. One of my problems with Christianity (as it’s practiced) is the whole “us vs. them” thing that emerged in the Reformation. I understand it, but I’m convinced that God is bigger than that. With church membership what it is here, there might be little of that in Monte Vista. Those of us who love this small, half-dead town, we need each other and we know it.
My neighbor, E, is a member of St. Stephens. She is also a petite and passionate dynamo of humanity. I think she’s wonderful. She’s Australian. And, that day, she coordinated, cooked, introduced, smiled — and THEN she played the piano to accompany the hymns!
This was followed by what I would call a “homily” delivered by the lay pastor. I listened, trying to dampen down the stuff in my mind. After writing three novels that draw heavily from Scripture, novels that inevitably put my own “Christian” philosophy out into the world, I struggle against the very human tendency to judge what others say. There are some things I just don’t believe.
I don’t believe we’re sinners. I don’t believe in the resurrection. I think it’s irrelevant. I don’t believe that Jesus is my personal savior. I don’t even believe that Jesus, as a person, is the point. As a metaphor, he’s timeless and very important. Here’s a man who was willing to knock out hypocrisy and greed (that will happen later on today, I guess, when he goes to the temple and throws out the moneylenders — an action I’d like to see happen in this country). He was a man who had courage that had been inspired by compassion for the suffering of others. He was a man who could articulate important messages for people to live better, happier, more peaceful lives — messages against greed, “Look to the lilies of the field…” for example. He also demonstrated the nature of faith and its relation to action, “C’mon, Simon Peter. Look at me. Don’t think about the water.”
The people from whom I am descended were “Bible thumpers.” The Scripture was (apparently) the ONLY book they read other than the Martyrs Mirror. This remained the story in the family home until my mom’s generation. My grandfather — not a Bible thumper — loved the written word and so, except on Sundays, they had Victor Hugo, Thomas Carlyle, John Greenleaf Whittier, and more. Still, when I was a kid, the Sunday funnies had to wait until after church. Mennonites originally, the doctrine was primarily the Sermon on the Mount. I do not know if it’s because of the influences of my childhood or my own study, but that is also the part of the New Testament that speaks to me. How to live life? It’s all there. And it isn’t even hard. It’s natural.
Perhaps later today I will see my neighbor, E, hurrying up the street to take communion to — and with — one of the members of St. Stephens who lives in an extended care facility.
E is a single light.
And I still can’t go to church, but if I could, it would be St. Stephens.