May 6, 2020

What I Miss

A friend asked me why I am sad to be separated from Riverside and what I miss so much.

It is so complicated. and so simple.

I miss the physical building. I miss the way the light comes through the stained glass windows. I miss the organ pipes in the chancel. I miss my pew (we are like colonial Episcopalians) with the hymnbook that my mother gave in memory of my dad. I miss the loose button on the cushion that accosts my bottom when I sit on it wrong. I missed the purple of Lent – now the white of Easter. I miss all the beautiful wood that Michael faithfully polishes every week. I miss the candles and the communion table with the silver the church ladies polish every week. I miss the airiness and openness of the sanctuary.

I desperately miss the community there – the choirs – those who have professional quality voices and those who cant always hit the notes and who need the railing to get into the chancel –  the balcony people who wave and blow kisses when we pass the peace – the children’s time on the steps where they hit their siblings and give outrageous answers some of the time, the wiggly kids who get to leave after the children’s time and the wigglier ones who have to sit through the whole service- the people I have know since I was 6 years old and the new friends I made in Martha’s illness – the ones who ask after my mother every single Sunday and the ones who can’t pronounce her name – the people I have been sitting in the middle of for years and years – the staff who faithfully make worship happen every week –  the people who sidle up to me afterwards and ask how is the PNC doing and do we have a candidate yet –  the generations of families who still sit together week after week, yes in the same place all these years.

I miss the music – the fabulous organ, the beautiful choir, Sam and Janie and their magical group, the bell choir, the familiar hymns – which I seem to know because I guess I have been singing them all these years they are almost all familiar –  and the congregation giving it their all when we struggle with new tunes. I miss the quiet during prayers and the noisy confusion before and after the service. 

I miss my friends. Many of my closest friends are Riversiders. We have so much history together. We raised our children together. We taught Sunday School and other classes together. We cook in the basement together, meals to be delivered to the sick and otherwise infirm. We hold each others hands when times are tough, and drink together in good and bad times. Our theology isn’t always the same and our politics aren’t always the same but we love each other and miss the same people and aren’t ashamed to cry when we need it and when most people wouldn’t understand.

I miss that it is part of my history, who I am. I sat there with my father and Martha and Betty and any number of other who have gone on. I have memories and  stories about so many things that happened there involving lots of people I love. I miss that it is taking away my present and future not to be there –  every Sunday I am gone I do not get to sit with Will and Teddy and Katie and Engy. I do not get to hug all my little intergenerational friends who mean a lot to me. I am missing part of their growing up and that makes me sad. 

I miss the preaching-  the fact that it is okay to be a doubter and a questioner and that we have always been about that at Riverside. That the sermons (some, not all) and the theology have shaped my world view and made me realize the importance of faithfulness and servanthood because I have been so loved and cared for. We are having streaming worship every week now, but it is not so good. I get too distracted by the heathens in my household, and the NYT puzzle lying there still unsolved and the sudden need for another cup of coffee. It is so unsatisfactory. I certainly believe that the fault is all mine and that God is reaching out to me, offering alternative beauty and meaning. But I am sadly not as adaptive as I once was, so there is a hole in my heart where Riverside could be. and will be.

Maybe this is a mixed blessing because I will never take Riverside for granted again. They dogged me relentlessly during college and law school and the first years I was back in town. I threw away all the Messengers without reading them for 10+ years. More like 13. But there they were, ready with open arms when I needed to come back – the prodigal daughter. So it is home. The most long-standing home in my life. And there doesn’t seem to be an adequate substitute for it in this life.

Written by Mary Coxe

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