When I am in Vancouver, I am bad at going to church. I was better last year when my friend Rebecca and I would go, sharing ear buds and listening to One Direction all the way there and back, but this year Rebecca is in Australia and I haven’t gone to church once. I guess I haven’t gone because I haven’t felt that I “need” to, that my relationship with God is strengthened and sustained through writing and reading, friendships, and quiet moments on the bus or walking to class when I am again surprised by the beauty of ocean, mountain, sunshine, and even rain.
Of course, there is a part of me that misses weekly sermons that push, inspire, and comfort me, hymns that stir me, a community of people all yearning for the same peace, love, grace, God. It’s just that part of me is often shoved aside in favour of more sleep on Sunday mornings. However, this Easter morning Sunday I thought I would go to church.
Getting ready, I remembered being a kid and getting to wear a new Easter dress with pretty white socks that were fringed with lace that poufed out. I would get a chocolate treat with breakfast. We would listen to CBC’s Choral Concert on the way to church. Those Easter morning rituals felt as worshipful as the church service itself, and this morning I found myself in a similar headspace. Cherry blossoms lined my walk to the bus. I listened to Sufjan Stevens, the non-Christmas songs from his Christmas album, on repeat. I hoped we would sing the Hallelujah Chorus.
I was a few minutes late but it didn’t matter. The church was packed so I stood in the back of the balcony. From there I could see most of the people in the congregation, if not the pastor or the choir, and the church was filled with people spanning many different cultural, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds. Later in the service we would say, “The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!” in 9 different languages. The music was enthusiastic and varied in that some people sang harmony while others clapped off-time, some people danced, some sat, and some held onto and swayed with family members and friends. The message was simple but powerful: meet the Risen Lord and be newly turned towards joy, courage, and a passion to create a better world.
I had some complaints. The Hallelujah Chorus was “updated” into a new jazzy tune, a drum kit tap-tapping out the rhythm. There was also a hint of an alter call—a silent one, thankfully, that was supposed to happen only in your heart, but an alter call-esque ritual nonetheless. These were moments that pulled me out of the service, moments that made me glad I could feel close to God listening to Handel’s Messiah in my bedroom.
Still, walking out of the church I felt buoyant. It could have simply been the warm weather and the prospect of no school on Monday, but maybe it was also a new sense of joy, courage, and passion.
I don’t know if I’ll spend the last few weeks of university going to church regularly or not, but this Easter morning, meeting together with a group of people for the singular purpose of rejoicing the miracle of the risen Lord offered a profound closeness with God that I hadn’t felt in a long time.