This is actually the legal theft piece the original first line of which Gwen from Apprentice, Never Master stole from me to write her piece for Thursday, “Basilica.” It was supposed to go up September 13. I’ve started the piece that I was supposed to have done for Thursday (September 12) using the line that I stole from Gwen. That will be up as soon as I have completed all the homework due by noon.
I don’t like going to my grandparents’ church. My parents know this, but we still have to go once a month to keep my grandparents happy.
Theirs is a more traditional service with lots of pomp and circumstance. The organ shouts out a hymn’s tune beneath trills and rills, and a choir of older voices leans strongly towards the soprano with only a few baritones and basses for support. Dad tells me that the priests come out in flowing robes stitched with gold, a little boy carrying a cross walks before them to the altar, which is a grand affair itself. This parade of finery is lost on me; it’s meaningless, and it seems unnecessary. If I can worship without seeing any of this, everyone else should be able too as well. “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That’s one of my favorite verses. I try not to smirk as I sit in the pew, thinking about all these people who have to see to believe, who need gold and a parade of costumed men to worship God. No one wears robes outside of church, but worship doesn’t end on Sunday around one o’clock.
The church my parents and I go to usually is different. Modern, my grandparents call it, and an effrontery when they think I’m not listening (which is ridiculous; I’m always listening). I asked my dad what effrontery meant, and he told me that my grandparents think that our church doesn’t worship God right. He told me to ignore them and worship God however I wanted to. He told me that God wouldn’t mind as long as I did worship Him. Personally, I get a lot more out of the blaring rock music with drums that change the rhythm of my heartbeat than I do from a priest chanting in Latin. Who even knows what the priest is saying? I mean, I know they know—or some of them do, the older people—some of them must—but they can’t understand it, and they can’t really think about it, can they? Certainly I can’t. The ave, Marias and the pater nosters might as well be Martian to me.
My mom nudges me, pushing at my forearm a bit, and I know it’s time to kneel. I shuffle forward on the bench and lower myself towards the floor, putting a hand out to catch the pew in front of us and finding the tiny, cushioned ledge with my knees. My grandparents’ church requires a lot of aerobics too. Sit, stand, sit, kneel, stand again, now kneel, now you can sit. No one likes to kneel—or I can’t think why anyone would like to kneel—but I especially don’t.
My church doesn’t care if we sit, stand, jump around, or dance in the aisles. Sitting is easiest for me. After coming back from my grandparents’ church, I almost want to dance in the aisle with the Abigail, who giggles and squeals as she does, imitating the amens and hallelujahs; I just want to let go and celebrate having fewer rules.
She dances every week, so her parents sit in the back near us, though seating’s not assigned. After introducing herself to me, Abigail told me that I could dance with her anytime, but most of our interactions have been during the meet and greet moments that our church pauses for.
She says hello every week. “Hello, Simon,” she calls, and then I hear her say, “Hi. I’m Abigail,” and every week there’s a new voice saying, “Hello, Abigail.”
I don’t have Abigail’s exuberance, and meeting new people can be hard.
Abigail doesn’t ask much, didn’t ask much of me. It’s why I can smile at her and call back, “Hi, Abigail.” She’ll even come up to me when I tell her to, and talk to me if I want her to, and she doesn’t ask why I don’t go to her.
Everyone’s chanting around us now—my mother too—making their mouths move through the pattern of those foreign, Latin syllables that are just nonsense to me and memorized by them. I catch a few words: “Pater noster” is “our Father,” and I think “malo” might be “bad” like in Spanish. “Jesu Christ” is definitely “Jesus Christ.” “Gloria” is almost certainly “glory.” But for every word I can guess at, there are a hundred more that I can’t understand at all.
At the priest’s “Offerte vobis pacem,” my mother signals me to stand. People turn towards us offering a “pax,” a handshake, a “hello,” the English a welcome relief. I stick my hand out and allow it to be taken. I’ve learned this is easiest. I say “pax” when it’s taken.
I think about Abigail introducing herself to everyone, and it’s easier to smile at these strangers who don’t tell me their names and don’t stay for more than a quick, unenthusiastic greeting.
And I just want to say that this is in no way meant to insult any form of worship. I actually really enjoy a liturgical service and contemporary rock worship music, but personally I agree with Simon’s dad: God won’t care how we worship.
This is actually, too, an excerpt from a longer piece that I wrote for class.