A few weeks ago, my grandpa brought me to a “Harvest Festival” that took place in my town. It was a little before noon, and we left our house a few miles from the Stonington border and drove toward a farm in the center of North Stonington where the event was being held. When we got there, I spotted a close friend from school, and my grandpa told me to go look around at all the stands with him and meet back at the entrance later. So we walked around a little bit and talked. During the conversation, my friend said, “Y’know, I didn’t really expect to see you here at a town event like this.” I asked why, and he responded, “Well… it seems to me like you’re always off doing big things in Westerly.” I looked around me at all of the stands set up around the field with signs about all of these local businesses and farms and names of town roads that I have heard of but do not actually know where they are… and I realized he was right; in all honesty, I think I know the layout of Westerly better than I know that of my own town. And that makes sense, really. I come into Westerly for one reason or another almost every day: Monday night, it’s Chorus rehearsal; Wednesday night, it’s rehearsal with the Westerly Band; Thursday, it’s Choir; Saturday, it’s the occasional Youth Group activity; and Sunday morning, it’s, well, here. And, in one way or another, each of these parts of my weekly routine is something that the Church has given me.
When I was seven and a half, I don’t really remember how it happened exactly, but my mom told me that I was joining the choir. So, my first rehearsal with Mr. Kent was in the choir room a few weeks before the Summer Pops. When I got there, I remember having seen many other kids who I did not think I had seen in the Choir loft on Sundays, and it turned out I hadn’t; these were the kids from the Chorus of Westerly, which I guess I was also signed up for without really knowing it. So, over the years, I learned how to read music, how to sing, how to do the bells on Sunday mornings, how to make friends with the other trebles, and (maybe most importantly) the most tactful way to tell Mr. Kent that there’s a small chance that you just might not be able to make the next rehearsal.
Having been a part of these organizations now for a good half of my life, though, I can’t really imagine life without them. Many of the close friends I have now were those who sat a few feet away in choir rehearsal, stood a few rows farther up on the risers in chorus concerts, and rang the bells with me on Sunday mornings since we were all twelve years old.
Church has also taken me places that I might never have otherwise experienced. Over the years, I have slept overnight at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City a couple of times with the Youth Group, spent a few weeks at the Episcopal Conference Center (ECC) in northern Rhode Island in past summers, lived on the Navajo reservation in Utah for a week to help with a Vacation Bible School program, and been introduced to Camp Ogontz in Northern New Hampshire by the choir where I spent this past summer working.
I suppose what I have taken from these experiences is that Christ Church can take you so many places that you would never expect, and, on the flip side, it is important to take Christ Church with you even after the service is over because Church, I believe, is about finding out what you can do with the support you are given by this community… and occasionally seeing how you can return the favor.