This was my church experience when I first moved to Canada in the 80s. Song leader conducting from behind the pulpit; hymns with piano and organ only; “Number 233 in your hymnals, number 233,” says the song leader as the organ and piano kick in. And at that time, this was probably my favourite hymn. I loved the cadence of it—the round and counter-melody in the chorus made it a bouncy and jovial song, fun for an eight or nine year old.
I posted that on Facebook yesterday. I’m not sure why that song came to mind then, but it brought to mind another memory from our early years in Caronport, at town with about 800 permanent residents at the time, but an influx of 1,500 or so high school and Bible college students during the school year.
This memory must be from quite early on—1986 or 1987, probably—because church was no longer in the “Old Chapel” (a building converted from whatever it was when the town was a military airbase in the 1930s) and we were still attending church in the new multi-thousand seat Hildebrand Chapel (in later years we drove to another nearby town for church).
This particular Sunday in my memory, I lingered after Sunday school with my friends and got to the service after it had started. My dad was standing at the top of the aisle waiting for me—right about here, actually:
He stood there in his baby blue blazer—I can’t remember if his slacks matched the blazer or if they were grey—hands in his pockets, looking around trying to find me. I was young and the auditorium was large and filled with people, so he was probably and understandably concerned.
What strikes me is that every time I think about this moment I feel a deep sadness. It’s not a sadness related to dad’s passing. Rather, it’s a feeling I’ve carried with me from that very moment, feelings I’ve never been able to explain fully. They have something to do with feeling like I had disappointed dad, or that he looked so concerned about my whereabouts that I was sad that I had been so cavalier and inconsiderate about not getting to the service on time.
I don’t know what dad was thinking or how he was feeling, but in retrospect it was probably annoyance or even anger at my tardiness. I’ve never asked him, not least because for him and probably anyone else this was an unremarkable moment. But for me it was significant in a way I’ve never been able to fully understand—significant enough for me to carry with me for thirty years.
This memory brings up those same feelings to this day.