My wife and I don’t often miss church. Most Sundays find us at St. Matthews, where we find nourishment in the familiar rhythms of word and sacrament, and the comradery of friends old and new engaging. In the main, we like the hymns and songs, choir and bells, the sense of being in a historically grounded space, the grace and quirkiness of this person and that; but most especially Gary, whom some might call challenged but I see as especially gifted. Perhaps gifting might be the better word. He reminds me each Sunday that God is sharply located among the weak, wounded and dependent ones.
Like I said, we don’t often miss church and on holidays we like to visit other congregations if travel is serendipitous in that way. Last weekend, we sailed to Port Credit, and hunkered down in the Credit Valley Marina for the night. Our plan was to get away fairly early Sunday morning, so to be back in time to get ready for another week. This meant no church and I knew I would miss my routine.
One of the spiritual disciplines of my Sunday is the walk to and from church. There was to be none of that this Sunday last, but a short walk was in the offing all the same. I walked along the Mississauga lake front trail, enjoying the view and the people enjoying the view. I was especially struck by a man sitting on a bench with a coffee, cigar, and crossword puzzle who was utterly transfixed by his tasks. He didn’t seem to notice his pristine view of the lake, which was emitting some of the diamonds it harbours in waves and wakes. Others were chatting as they jogged, walked, and cycled about. None looked like they were on their way to church, and it struck me that a change in their plans was not too likely.
Of course, many in the Greater Toronto Area would know nothing of church, coming to Canada with other faiths in their pasts, but I was reminded again how many in Canada would know nothing of church, being born with little or no knowledge of what the practice of church could mean. I looked at the people biking in their little groups, and asked myself how many of them might give up their free Sunday morning at lake’s side for the weekly discipline of worship. My forehead furrowed.
My father, of blessed memory, used to say that a revival was needed in our day and age. He had in mind a revival of the heart of both the individual and the church, and I think he was right. But as I made my way yesterday upon that pathway leading not to church but along the lake, I surmised that re-vivification will involve neither finger waving nor bland religious platitudes, but more time spent with folk like Gary. He gleefully shouts “Time for church!” as one of us hold open the door for him who, in turn, opens a few doors for us unawares. His faith is contagion as he revives the heart of the institution and the individuals who still find in it a home for their faith.