Pronghorn, Chapter 7: In Service

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa’s father, seeing the surprise on his son’s face, leaned over and quietly said to him “That’s Rev’nd Kerr, in case you were wondering.” Asa but nodded mutely, swallowing hard. really had not expected that.

From the pulpit, Reverend Kerr called out for a hymn, and the congregation stood, red-covered hymnals in hand. Asa joined in, falling back on the acculturation of youth despite having long been away, and he sang quietly amid the congregants. The hymn was unfamiliar to him, and he both felt and heard his voice miss the pitches those around him found with seemingly little effort. And others heard me do it, too; I saw them flinch.

The hymn came to its end, and Kerr motioned for the congregation to sit. “I’m glad to be here with you today, folks! I’m glad to see that you’re here, too, and to join you in praising Jesus! And I’m glad to see some unfamiliar faces with you; I know you will be, too, so if those of you who’re new here could stand up, we’d like to say ‘Hi’ and know where we’re aiming it.”

Asa’s mother nudged him. “Stand up, Asa.”

Asa shook his head. “I’m not new here, remember.”

“You might as well be.”

“Mom!” This last came out in a harsh whisper.

From the pulpit, Kerr called out to one person near her who had stood. “Welcome! We’re glad to have you with us today! What’s your name?”

The response was lost to Asa as his mother replied in a similar whisper “Stand up! Be seen!”

Kerr continued. “It’s a good name to have, sounds like. And you’re here visiting your grandparents?”

Asa replied, still whispering, “Fine, Mom, when she’s done.”

“They sure seem happy to see you, John,” came from the pulpit.

John replied, nodding, “Me, too.”

“Well, we’re happy to see you, and we’d love to visit with you after service, if you’re willing.” John sat, and Kerr made something of a show of looking at the congregation. Asa glanced around, as well, saw nobody else standing, and slowly rose to his feet.

He had Kerr’s attention at once. “Welcome! We’re glad to have you with us today! What’s your name?”

Asa cleared his throat and pitched his voice to carry as if he were at the front of a full classroom. “I’m Asa Pemewan, and I’m not so much new here as I’ve been gone for a while.”

“Hi, Asa! I’m Anna Kerr, and it’s a pleasure! Where’ve you been, if I may ask?”

Asa nodded. “I’ve been away teaching at colleges and doing some other work. But I figured it was time to come home for a while.”

“What all were you teaching?”

“English, mostly.” And I know what comes next.

“Then I guess I’ll have to watch my words around you!”

Asa rolled his eyes a bit. Yep, and now time for the winning reply. “Don’t worry; I only do that when I’m on the clock.” Many in the congregation laughed, as did Kerr. She’s got a nice smile. But then, she is a preacher; she has to be able to connect.

“That’s a relief, then! And we’d love to visit with you after the service, too, if you’re willing.” Asa nodded and sat, and as he did, his mother leaned in, whispering.

“You see, that worked out for you. Now people think you’re happy to be with them.”

Asa nodded. Except that I’m not sure I am.

From the pulpit, Kerr, seeing nobody else standing, said “Well, since we’ve got that, we probably ought to take a minute to extend the hand of friendship around a bit! So turn to your neighbors and say hello!”

The congregation stood again, and Asa again found himself meeting people he half-remembered, a smile on his lips that did not extend to his eyes. Soon enough, Kerr called the congregation back to order: “And now, then, let’s offer up a prayer of confession.”

The congregants remained standing and bowed their heads. “O, Lord, we’ve not lived up to the potential You’ve instilled in each of us, we know. We’ve not done the good we ought to have done; we’ve not resisted evil as we ought to have. Forgive us, O, Lord, and help us to be better, we ask You–and we ask it of You in the Name of Your Son, who taught us to pray by saying–”

The congregation lifted up its many voices in unison around Asa, who remained standing silently. I’m not part of this; I haven’t been in years. And while I will stand here for my parents, I’m not about to speak a prayer I do not believe. Hypocrite that I am, I’ll not do that.

The prayer concluded, and Kerr motioned for the congregation to sit again. Asa did so gratefully, glad to be able to return to passivity for the moment. There is more energy in the service than I recall, though. And that’s probably good he thought as Kerr read out a series of church notices. He found his attention returning to her again and again–fittingly enough, given her position–but I really ought not to be looking to see if there’s a ring on her left hand–or noting there isn’t–or how the stole and robe are draped over her.

Asa stood with the congregation again as another hymn was called for. He sang no better than before–worse, indeed, since it seemed he was not looking at the hymnal, but further up the sanctuary. It’s stupid lust, is all, and I’m supposed to be better. I have to be better, and not just here.

As the congregation sat once more in anticipation of the Scripture readings, Asa shook his head. I know better than to look at people like that. She deserves better than to have me ogle her, and I deserve better than to think in such a way.

Did I bring you as much pleasure as a sandwich does? Could you kick in as much for me as you pay for that so I can keep doing what you like? Click here, then, and thanks!

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