Deep in thought I walk through the double doors. There is a table with four hand sanitizer dispensers. I rub the liquid into my hands and look around. Cheerful expressions. But also some bewilderment. How should we go about this?
Benches in the sanctuary have been pushed together to provide more space between the rows.
I sit down where I usually sit. Families sit together, maybe somewhere different from their regular places.
The organist begins the hymn ”Come with us to His temple; let us go listen there”. Such a fitting hymn in this situation! I join in the song. But what is this: my voice cannot carry the tune? It swings from high falsetto to throaty hoarseness. It is months since I last sang. Could that be the reason?
Five months have passed since I was at regular services. I already doubted if I could drag my old portion to come after all those months of listening to online services at home.
A familiar speaker brother takes his seat at the Bible. I feel a bit emotional, and so does the brother, who has not been to services for an even longer time. The speaker begins his sermon. Everything seems quite normal – this is how we have been sitting here for years. I focus on the speaker’s words. It is certainly easier to concentrate on the sermon here than it is when listening to online sermons at home. I do not need to check my phone, leaf through the day’s newspaper, walk around to water my house plants, cook my lunch. I can sit here, enjoy this gift of God’s grace, and experience this precious moment that God has given us.
When the sermon ends, we are instructed about how to leave. The back rows go first, and everybody should use hand sanitizer again. The first sermon was meant specifically for seniors and high-risk persons, but others can stay for the second sermon if they want. I leave, however, because we are celebrating the confirmation of a young family member. I am able to exchange some words with my friends. It is a joy to see them face-to-face, stay for a while in the hall, at the door or on the yard and share some news.
My second time at services is special because the congregation sings a song in memory of those who passed away during the lockdown, including my mother. The speaker brother reads the memorial verses for the five sisters and brothers in the order of their death dates. “The shore of peace and beauty brings rest so sweet in glory”. Such touching words about the corruption of human life, the trials and sicknesses, but also about the joy of finding God’s kingdom at the eleventh hour. I can sing again now that I have had some practice.
The speaker brother addresses the grieving family members and friends and tells us about a personal experience he had a couple of years previously. God gives him comforting words. Not all believers experience a peaceful death. Some may suffer from anxiety, pain and even fear at the time of death. The speaker reminisces about Jesus’s death on the cross. ”My God, why did you abandon me?” Tragic, yet so comforting.
The service guests slowly file out of the sanctuary. I feel a bit lonesome. There is no coffee together, no condolences and shared experiences, which we normally have after a memorial song. I would have needed them now. All people just go home quietly.
We have not yet been able to resume our normal service practices. But I am very happy that we can come together again – even with some restrictions.
Text: Aulikki Piirainen
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original blog post here.
Suomessa on eletty pitkään rauhan aikaa. Tämä ei ole itsestään selvä asia. On kysymys Jumalan lahjasta. Maamme rauhaa ja itsenäisyyttä on aika ajoin myös häiritty ja uhattu. Historian eri vaiheissa kansamme on joutunut puolustamaan omaa olemassaoloaan myös ase kädessä.
Koko perheen joululevy sisältää jouluisia Siionin lauluja. Niiden sanoista kuulijalle välittyvät sekä hiljentyminen seimen äärelle että ilo ja ihmetys seimen lapsen syntymästä.
Kirjoittajat eri puolilta maailmaa kertovat siitä, kuinka Jumala on johdattanut heidät valtakuntaansa. Kertomuksia yhdistää kokemus kotiinpaluusta, Raamatun mukaisen uskon löytymisestä ja uskovaisten välisestä rakkaudesta.
Kuuden edesmenneen puhujan elämänvaiheet piirtävät kuvaa uskosta ja elämästä menneinä vuosikymmeninä. Heidän kokemuksensa myös syventävät kristillisyyttä koetelleiden hajaannusten historiaa.
Eeva Kontiokarin runoissa tarkastellaan ikääntymistä lempeällä huumorilla ja elämänkokemuksen tuomalla viisaudella.