When North Meets South (an Oriental tale)
I had the opportunity to stay with my friends Julie and Doug in quaint Beaufort, NC. While down in the area I made it a point to attend Christ Church in historic New Bern. Coincidentally, this beautiful old church with its expanse of lawn and garden is across the street from Heart of the Home, a kitchen modeling/remodeling business owned by my cousin, Mike Roberts and his wife Candy.
This area is part of the 'outer banks' (and you can get the letters OBX encapsulated in an oval bumper sticker to prove it) along the coast of the state. Lots of shrimpin' goes on here. Families are just as likely to have a boat as not. Although prefering the solid ground to water any day, I did get a rush bobbing around for the better part of an hour with Mike in his cabin cruiser. We were delayed in shoving off because a storm blew through. Phew! Your head could spin seeing how fast a line of showers or thunderstorm mounts up and zooms through. Although breathtaking, I can only imagine how terrifying it must be so see a hurricaine plowing its way up the coast on that familiar boomerang-shaped track from the Carribean.
After getting back my land legs I went out to dinner with Candy who had been invited to dinner - a girls night out - by some of the ladies of Oriental. Oriental - what a surprize it is to be on the street bordering the coast to peer over a railing on one side to see a red Chinese dragon very, very slowly navigating rather serendipitously around and around.
We went to the yacht club. I am mentally pinching myself --- I am certain that God got a good chuckle (and may still be snickering). Middle aged female from blue collar family in New Jersey sits in the yacht club having a 'girls night out' with some incredibly charming southern ladies.
I listened to discussions about who was who and who knew who and what a traffic jam was in the area (about 3-4 cars @ a red light) and what manners were. Children are expected to say please, thank you, yes ma'am/yes sir. Wow! Kinda neat, thought I. Not unlike going to a foreign country and being expected to first exchange pleasantries before transacting business with a clerk or grocer (and when one doesn't, met with a cool reception).
I thought back to Christ Church that morning. Not a lot of business was transacted before the service. Not a lot of milling or audible conversation. An atmosphere of quiet reverence- something that can be completely lacking in a parish without that tradition.
There are times when we - for convenience - forget that "church" does mean different things to different people. I am extremely comfortable in a very 'loose' service - not so formal or particular about what people are wearing, different kinds of music, different voices and instruments, liturgical drama from time to time, a Eucharist on the lawn. By the same token, there are those of us who are most comfortable in a more austere and solemn setting, focusing on the transcendence of the Incarnation and the sacrifice of Christ.
Perhaps one way to balance the two is to focus different modes of liturgical expression for different liturgical seasons. In this way, everyone in the congregation experiences corporate worship in its many forms.
OK, back to the Yacht Club. Here we sat..... around a table for fellowship. At first some quiet apprehension, some getting used to the cadence and accents. Then, as if miraculously, leaving not strangers any longer.
Whether at the communion rail or over a caeser salad, with hearts tuned to our neighbors, treating others as we wish we were treated the old hymn comes to mind.....
"In Christ there is no east or west, in Him no south or north. But one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth."