lost sheep.

When the cat's away, the mouse will...go to church?

At least, that's what Josh did the weekend I was gone to Boone, among other things (the mouse also will explode some marinara in the microwave, apparently). He went to a church, but did not go in, because he was twenty minutes late (rather than the five minutes late that he thought). I was surprised when he told me. We've talked about going back to church, but always in a oh-yeah-someday-we'll-do-that kind of way. We both grew up in the church but haven't been regular attenders in years. I miss the extended family, but I sure do like sleeping in on Sundays.

The church he picked was a Lutheran one a couple of miles from the house. This being a big city in North Carolina, there's pretty much whatever kind of church you want within five minutes' driving range. Josh grew up Lutheran. I've been to the church where he grew up; in fact, I will be getting married there. It's a beautiful church. However, I find the Lutheran service exhausting. There is a lot of ritual and reading along. There are also songs that are so old, they are from another era of understanding about music. Their structure is incomprehensible and unpredictable to my modern ears. The program is several pages long. It's like being in a musical, and while I have the script here in my hands, I have missed all the rehearsals. Josh says I'll get used to it. His mom says that she finds the structure comforting. I say bah humbug.

When I'm not bewildered and lost, I mostly don't care for all the ritual. It seems very easy to float along, following the script, without any of it meaning much of anything to the actual participant. I actually remember the moment I figured this out: I was a kid, reading along with the psalms, and I realized I had no idea what any of it meant. I suppose you get out what you put in. Compared to the Lutherans, the Methodist church where I grew up had very little ritual and therefore more of the service was taken up by the sermon. Lutheran sermons are short, so maybe they're onto something there. Lutherans also really like communion. Josh insists that they don't have it every single time. I will believe it when I don't see it.

The next weekend after Josh failed to go to church, we got up at the right time and tried again. We were late, but the doors were still open. While this church was similar to the one he grew up in, I enjoyed the service much more. Apparently, how much I like a church depends mostly on singing songs that I already know. There were no random melody songs either, another plus. It was still a lot of ritual, but I must be figuring it out, because I didn't feel so flustered the whole time.

I do like this church. It is alive. There are three services every Sunday (one in the evening!), and a shuttle goes to a local nursing home to pick up attendees. There are a lot of programs going on, though Sunday School ("Christian Education") is off for the summer. The middle schoolers are doing local mission work. Another group is doing a program for children with developmental disabilities. The kids go to camp at Lutheridge and Lutherock. The official membership roster must be huge, but it didn't seem so big from the 9:45 service. I don't like too big churches.

There are a lot of different people in charge, and I don't understand their relationship to each other. The main one wears a clerical collar, but no robe because she is pregnant. There is also an older man who wears fancy robes, another guy in a collar, and a lady vicar. Having only ever encountered the word "vicar" in Agatha Christie novels, I was surprised to find that they're not just for the British.

Our first visit coincided with the beginning of a new sermon series about the Psalms. Each week, we focus on a different description of God and. In the entrance, there is a big banner set up where people could write their own completions to the sentence "God is..." There was also a basket full of small green stones with those words printed on top. I took one, because, hey, free stuff. Now it sits in the bowl where I put my keys, and every morning and evening as I am leaving and returning, I see it. Also, and this blew my mind, the pregnant lady preacher and the older man preacher wrote a psalm. The words and music were printed in the program, credited to them, all rights reserved. It was about God being a good shepherd. They sang it to us (thelady played guitar!), and the next Sunday we sang it with them.

Yeah, we went back the next Sunday. There was communion. I don't know what will happen next. This is motivated by Josh, who feels like he needs to get back to church. And while I don't necessarily feel that pull, I'm not against it. We wear nice clothes, he drives my car, and we walk inside holding hands. We look like a nice young couple looking for a new church home.

I guess we are. Maybe I'll become a Lutheran. That might be okay. I asked Josh who our rivals were, and he didn't understand at all.

"Well, the Methodists say that we need to hurry up and get to Cracker Barrel before the Baptists get out. Who do the Lutherans have to beat to Cracker Barrel?"

"The Catholics."

Good to know.

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