« Summer dawns on International Day of Yoga | Main | Spirituality trumps religiosity in beloved Emily Brontë poem »

Sunday morning guilt

I usually don’t take my daily walk in the morning. Between Facebook, Yoga, and other activities, I just don’t have the time before I launch into my work day or weekend schedule. Afternoon and evening have become walking time choices for me.

Today was different, though, because I needed to leave by 2 p.m. to attend a concert event I’d be writing about. Although it was already 80 degrees Fahrenheit and humid, I decided to step out for a routine stroll around the one-mile-square town in which I live.

It was Sunday, and heading out around 10, I encountered something I had not experienced locally in many years: churchgoing. When I feel the need to attend church, I go to one a half-hour south of here, for a variety of reasons. It has been a while since I attended or thought about the churches in my home town.

My town is a small city with a large variety of places to worship. There are six mainline churches, six historically black churches, and one synagogue. And that’s not including the township. Hardly a block passed under my sneakers than I stepped aside to allow an individual or small family to proceed to the ecclesia of their choice.

There were moms and dads (this being Fathers Day), with children in tow. A single person, probably over 50, tried the different doors at the Presbyterian church. As I walked by across the street, the bold entr’acte of the Episcopal organ filled the air through open, red doors. People were jostling to park on the street around the always-busy Roman Catholic church, while an elderly woman, helped by a friend, ascended the front steps of the Methodist. If you think of Sunday morning as a quiet, lazy time of day, you haven’t been to my home town.

I became quickly conscious of several things, since this was not my normal routine. For one, I was thirsty and had forgotten my water, so I took a detour to the Mexican restaurant where it was standing room only for Fathers Day breakfast. Another was that I needed to walk on the other side of the street to capture the unaccustomed morning shade.

And I felt something else, as I strolled in shorts, straw hat, and un-ironed shirt. A lack of guilt. I can’t tell you how many years it’s been since I stopped attending the local churches and then would take complicated detours to avoid parishioners. I don’t know whether their veiled looks of recognition indicated disapproval or embarrassment or nothing at all. But, whether true or not, I sensed very deeply that people I once attended church with now thought badly of me, and that any guilt I felt was well deserved.

In the past, I would take elaborate alternative routes to get by the Methodist or Presbyterian church if I happened to be out and about on Sunday morning. It was hard to avoid the Episcopalians since I lived a few blocks away on their street. Initially, after I stopped attending services, one of the parishioners who knew me by sight would wave or worse still, flag me down and call out cheerfully, “Haven’t seen you in church recently!” It was clearly a “gotcha” moment. I would smile weakly and wave back, resolving to take a different path in the future.

There was nothing wrong with these churches and their members. The faithful cut a charming portrait of small town life, walking to services in their good clothes, not exactly the white gloves, hats, and summer coats of my childhood churchgoing, but purposefully selected to distinguish Sunday from every-day life. But the guilt I experienced when I encountered them was real. I felt like the black sheep, the self-afflicted pariah. I was the prodigal son who didn’t come back.

But today was different. The sun was shining and all the curbside gardens burst with colorful lilies and wildflowers. Bright clouds chased the dark to the far edge of a blue-bound sky. Passing on the sidewalk, the churchgoers and I were people with the same destination whose paths had crossed for a moment, then seamlessly unraveled into our own inevitable ways.

Sometimes it’s what we don’t bring with us that makes our journey light. Next time, and for the future, I’ll bring my water, but leave my guilt behind.


Posted on Sunday, June 18, 2017 at 11:48AM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.