Today I got up early, grabbed a bowl of cereal and went to a stately old Presbyterian church in St. Paul for a one day conference on faith and writing. I had gone to the same conference last year, and especially was intrigued to hear that Billy Collins and Clyde Edgerton would be there.
When I got there, I remembered the one thing I didn't like about the conference last year: going by myself.
I sat in the large, beautiful, somewhat dark sanctuary, and wondered if the pastor of the congregation still really preaches from that high pulpit. It must seem like preaching from midair. I noted with interest the different materials in the pews, especially the notepads for kids, and the stickers that visitors are invited to wear. But mostly, I felt lonely sitting there alone, wishing to share the experience with someone.
The first speaker, Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran) was passionate, and I enjoyed her immensely. I loved what she said about how stories help make us free, and how freedom is something that we don't just "have", it's something we continually strive for.
Two older women sat with me at lunch. They are in a book group together, and both talked about their church experiences as well. One sang in the choir, and the other said she grew up Pentecostal, and got enough church for the rest of her life. They are active in the League of Women Voters organization and told me about a fund-raiser they were planning for a local domestic abuse center: a pajama party. I told them I was very interested in having my church involved.
This experience was the highlight of my day.
Clyde Edgerton had a readers theatre version of his book The Bible Salesman. Hilarious. really, but for some reason I was yawning, and my eyes filled with tears.
I drove home, picked up my husband and we both had the treat of going to supper at a nice cafe on Grand avenue in St. Paul and hearing Billy Collins speak. My husband's favorite poem was the one about the angels dancing on the head of a pin, the one that ends with the angel dancing forever, and the bass player wondering when it will end, because it is late, even for musicians.
Tomorrow our interim pastor will help us remember the importance of listening to one another. I'll preside, and, in the crisp autumn afternoon, will bless a few animals. Perhaps afterwards, I'll drink hot cider or cocoa.
It is late, even for poets, or musicians. Or pastors.