There’s a time in the evening that is especially magical, in general, but particularly so in the sanctuary of my church. Maybe it’s called dusk, maybe twilight. Whatever it’s called, when the sun is sinking low but hasn’t quite disappeared yet, and the light turns golden instead of the bright white of earlier hours, something entrancing takes place in the sanctuary of my church. The stained glass windows filter down the golden light, turning it red and blue, and even more golden until the very air seems to sparkle. The only light in the sanctuary is that admitted through those pieces of colored glass, so the corners of the room and many of the pews are swathed in shadow.
Every so often, just out of the very corner of my eye, I see a figure sitting in one of the shadowed pews, but when I turn my head fully, the figure is gone. The pew empty. And even though I know there is no one there, and there never was, I can’t help but imagine all the people who have entered this building in the hundred years of its existence. The worship services held, the marriages officiated, the babies baptized. And I think, this building is so beautiful, not just because of the physical beauty it holds, but in the life that has been lived and the faith passed on, that if I died and the whole “great cloud of witnesses” is a literal and not just figurative thing, I might come down every so often of an evening and sit in the pews again, too. And I wonder if the people who came through those doors a hundred years ago would be happy to hear us playing our music on a Thursday night, music that sounds so different from in their day, but music that is beautiful and says something just like theirs did. When I turn back to look at the music on my stand, I smile to myself and feel a camaraderie with the person I didn’t really see in the pew, with the congregations of years gone by, and hope and know that what we’re doing here, now, will affect the people who come through the doors of this building in years to come, too.
And I know, really I know, that the light only sparkles because of the dust particles floating in the air, and I obviously don’t actually see dead people sitting in the pews of my sanctuary. But something really does happen on those magical evenings, that ties me closer than ever to the faith of my fathers, and to the fathers themselves who lived and worked and worshiped in this city, and this church.