Shining Truth Tabernacle
The church lights seemed brighter than the house lights on the rest of the block. The steps of the church were inviting the girl. And if ever the girl needed a place of solace, now was the time.
The bushes on the either side of the steps appeared as sentinels. The windows above them were cracked and yellowed. She saw the bugs inside the panes and felt as if she were entering her apartment building instead of a place of worship.
The doors were painted with care, but the cheapness of the paint was obvious, as the brown on the trim was chipped and dull. The door handle was warm with the sweat from the residue of the last person that had entered.
The opening of the door brought a whiff of stale oats, oiled wood, and salty tears. The odd foyer that greeted her, held a closet sized booth for monitoring the sanctuary. Directly behind the booth was a downward set of stairs that looked inviting and ominous all at the same pace. To her right, the girl saw into a small room with sliding doors, a distinguished man, holding a ancient bible, that even from where she stood emitted a scent of thin paper and past secrets. The man stood and gracefully slid the door open and extended his hand.
“Hello there. I’m pastor Whitehead. Welcome to Shining Truth Tabernacle.” He ushered the girl through the swinging doors, which made a soothing sound on the worn indoor/outdoor carpet.
The girl didn’t think of herself as fancy, but the simplicity of this place made her feel overdressed. The high pinnacled ceilings had spots of water stains spread here and there.
The girl turned sideways and shuffled into the ancient pews. She was close to the exit, but able to see the congregation of 5 and the pulpit quite well.
Tucked below the pulpit and stage was a saloon standard piano. It was dingy and the keys were yellow. A bench in front of the piano, opened to reveal a space for music sheets. A 40 something bottle blond woman was sitting on the piano bench, perched and ready to play the old piano. She stood a bit and opened the cover of the piano bench. She was putting her water bottle inside the wobbly seat. The wobble of the bench matched the gait of the woman, perhaps it hadn’t been water she was drinking. The woman sat and began playing a hymn that the girl vaguely remembered.
Pastor Whitehead emerged from the back foyer, and strode up the aisle, and began the proceedings,
As the service moved through its course, the girl felt the unnaturalness of it all. The tearful piano playing wife who continued to sip her ‘water’. The off-key matron with the weird tick and loud voice. The desperation of the pastors two kids, who seemed to want to be anywhere but on the sticky hot pews. Even the schizophrenic Ichabod Crane character was only murmuring quietly to his demons, respectfully allowing the pastor his time in front of the congregation.
The girls face was bright as she gazed at the pastor, who was slamming his fist into the unsteady pulpit. Her eyes went past him to the token cross behind him.
The cross had the semblance of wood from its paint. The functionary nails in the right spots seemed to double as the actual nails used to hold the cross in its place. The girl felt a peace wash over her, with each glance at the cross. The brown of the paint was eroded in places revealing the green of the Styrofoam below the surface. Underneath the cross were crumbs of it laying as if proof of its defeat.
When the service was over. The girl exited with a calm she hadn’t felt since the positive pregnancy test she had taken three days earlier on her 20th birthday.
Her head finally realized what her heart had been telling her since she found out she was going to have a baby. This church experience had inadvertently given her answers she so desperately needed. She found what she was looking for at last in the odd little church. She realized that even the standards of the most socially moral sect of society had cracks and hide-away-holes, just like all humanity.
The girl embraced her torso and promised her unborn child that she would live truthfully and face their fears. She allowed herself this small bit of contentment in being exactly where she was in her life right now. She knew that no matter how her family,job,friends, or even the father of her baby reacted, she would be able to handle it. She might not believe in God, but she came away from Shining Truth Tabernacle with hope and acceptance. Life is complicated but she would keep on keeping on.