A recent article in Canadian Mennonite included a story of the closing of Superb Mennonite Church. Superb was my home. I was dedicated, married, baptized and raised a family there.
It is the late 1980s, and the Holly and Ed Olfert family are in their bench, fully engaged in Sunday morning worship.
They sit five strong, filling a pew. At the aisle end is Jeb, the youngest, tall, long-legged. He is leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, looking totally bored, looking like his mind is miles away. However, history has shown that Jeb is fully aware of the community that surrounds him, aware of things said, sensitive to feelings, at peace with it all.
Beside Jeb sits his mother, Holly. Holly is a little stressed today. Some weeks ago Jeb went shopping with his dad and came home proudly sporting a pair of canvas sneakers from Zellers for only $4, perfect canoe shoes for that upcoming school excursion. But this morning Jeb appeared from his bedroom dressed in those sneakers. Holly offered a comment regarding their beauty, and Jeb spontaneously decided that they would become his full-time Sunday shoes and also perfect footwear for that wedding he is to usher. Today, Holly frets as she looks down at the ugly sneakers from Zellers.
Next to Holly sits Jen. Jen is wearing a little sun dress. It doesn’t matter if it’s 40 below or 40 above, Jen is wearing a dress that is only “this” long. Now, Jen is cold. She is slipping her hands between her dad’s, moaning, “I’m so cold.”
Wearing this dress has little to do with it, 40 below or 40 above has little to do with it. There is simply no blood in Jen’s body; if she was wearing a snowmobile suit, Jen would be slipping icy fingers into Dad’s hands and moaning, “I’m so cold.”
Then there is Ed, struggling with weighty spiritual matters. “How will the farm chemical bill get paid?” “Why do those pistons in the free air Skidoo keep melting?” Ed, with the attention span of a gnat, keeps closing one eye while the other lines up the second pew with the first, the top of the pulpit with the window shade, the hymn book with the Duo-Tang behind it. Ed is getting the elbow and being accused of “lining things up.”
By the wall sits Kira, the eldest of the three. The dark cloud on her forehead announces that she doesn’t want to be here; she is too tired, too bored. That would be quite believable if one hadn’t observed her earlier confrontation with a younger cousin regarding his most recent hockey hero, her laughter as she turns to hear big Mike’s latest outrageous quote, her passion as she leans her confident alto into a favourite hymn.
The pastoral prayer begins. The Olferts sit quietly, heads bowed. Jeb has the advantage; his slouch passes reasonably well as a prayer posture.
The prayer goes on. And on. Somewhere, a child is born and learns to walk. Somewhere, a war starts, UN negotiators arrive and truce is bargained. The economies of small countries grow, then ebb away, while the prayer continues.
Jeb has not moved, but will later make a mild observation about watching the entire lifecycle of an insect on the floor between his Zellers sneakers.
Holly still frets, but now how to clear her house of smoke from a burnt roast.
Ed remains enveloped in his spiritual moment until lips brush against one ear and he hears, “Dad, that’s not a prayer, that’s another sermon!”
Then, from the other side, more gently, into his deaf ear, but he knows, “Dad, you’re lining things up again!” l
Ed Olfert (firstname.lastname@example.org) is grateful for the Superb community that loved his family.