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Meeting at First Church

I’ve entered an incarnated coma.
Images have been frozen in place for 40 years: the biblical equivalent of a “long, long time.”
The wood has a nice patina,
Encasing this life supported shell in a sort of shellacked beauty.
The man in the slightly tilted picture on the wall has changed races,
Moving from his original Caucasian towards the ever-deepening yellow of those in the Far East he went to save.
The map of his journey has joined in this coloring. Its suspended borders fixed
even as the world outside shifts allegiances and boundaries.

The Jesus face hanging across the room is still the white man he never was.
His gaze takes him far from here;
Longing to be freed from this space;
Longing to go outside
Maybe for a smoke –
Maybe to watch the neighbor kids play with their dog.
Anywhere but here.
The American flag next to him hangs limp –
Never having been allowed to unfurl in a real wind.
The history of the people it represents having added chapter upon chapter
since its colored cloth was strung on its pole.

The room takes a breath.
People enter, talk, laugh, eat.
Simulate life.
But it’s not life. Not even close.
Those who enter here, enter at their own risk.
The air is stale.
The heart of this place beats with the help of dwindling endowment and
faded “Welcome to Worship” signs.

Its end has come and gone unnoticed.
The same will be for me.
My time will go unnoticed by these comatose walls.

Only Jesus will watch me leave.

 *****

Underground

Once again, a church basement meeting
Below ground:
Bathed in light that nourishes no growth
Scattered seeds uprooted from our own soil:
(or is it soul?)
Called together by some nameless Great Farmer
Who is always acknowledged
But rarely comes below the ground.
Thrown into this pit as though this meeting will help us grow.
Perhaps it will
Or
Perhaps it will not kill us.

We’re tilling the soil again
That’s a good idea!
Let’s talk about growth!
See what it is that Christ is calling us to be?
Won’t we be beautiful!?

But don’t forget the ‘what ifs’
The ‘dangers of change’
The ‘that request should have gone through proper channels.’

So,
Keep your head down
And whatever you do
Keep coming to the basement

Our next meeting here will be…

Kent Busman

Kent Busman is a minister in the Reformed Church in American who has spent most of his ministry in upstate New York as director of Fowler Camp and Retreat Center in Speculator, New York. In this role, he has had to undergo years of meetings, many of which have been held in churches fond of putting rooms underground. Because so much of his ministry is in creation care and working with youth, he often becomes distracted by overtures, motions with seconds, and the inevitable calling of the question. In an effort to look like he is still mentally present at these gatherings he has sometimes resorted to writing "Meeting Poetry."

5 Comments

  • Anne says:

    White Jesus – or Head and Shoulders Jesus- as I like to call him, hangs from the wall as the boom box blares and the pound class sweats as he used to sweat. He looks on as the knitters click their needles and laugh hysterically while setting out the carry in dinner. I imagine he thinks a little wine might make the evening more fun. From his frame on the wall, he doesn’t comment as each Wednesday volunteers from the community lug bags of groceries and pallettes of produce to give away along with a bag of gently used clothing from a converted Sunday school nursery 2nd hand store. His nose doesn’t sniff as good smells come from the kitchen behind the wall where he is hung, gently. Healthy meals prepared with a professional chef and nutritionist make a group of strangers into friends and funnel funds from a local foundation into the very hands that need it most. Another funeral lunch is set out and folding chairs scrape against the shiny cement floor as folks come for seconds and remembrances of the past pour out as bread is broken together. Jesus looks on, looking good, hair still shining in the light of heaven, where the saints rest. I know he longs to soar into the stars on one of the Star Wars waffles that the kids turn out to celebrate the ordination of elders. Mondays may be the best of all as the Sweet Adelines move the tables, set up their risers and sing, sing, sing. Jesus loves the music, and the glittering costumes of dress rehearsals and most especially the prayer time at the end and the strains of “May the Lord Bless you and keep you…” that close every meeting. Surrounded by the ugly valance that someone once hammerd up and covered with cedar shakes to disguise copper pipes for a daughter’s wedding reception long ago, swallowed up by the stacks of food and toothbrushes that stock the pantry, ignored by most who come, white Jesus knows that his people have a long way to go – but that white face has no less love for the small efforts that take place in church basements. For he will go deeper than any church basement – all the way into the deepest and most hellish place – to find us wherever we are. I know this – because he also greets me in the atrium, the same tilt to his head as he holds a lamp and knocks softly on a door. I recognize him whether his face is white, black, brown, blue eyes, brown eyes, eyes with a beautiful Asian tilt, if his hair is perfect or crowned with thorns. So, yep- keep coming to the basement. Jesus is there.

  • Matt Huisman says:

    Fabulous post.

  • Fred Mueller says:

    Church basements
    free to the public
    amidst dense cigarette smoke (back in the day) a wrecked man, weaning from the bottle has a miraculous rebirth of hope
    scout troops stand at attention (sort of) as boys snicker at some silly thing funny only to them
    town or village meetings too big for their facility
    places designed for storing tables and chairs so kids can race around and get sweaty in a safe place
    all free
    a lonely pastor, with no skills at delegation wearily sets up the tables for a meeting the hundredth time
    a soup kitchen bubbles with love of neighbor
    interminable church meetings
    classis ’nuff said
    turn the thermostat way down at night to help the budget deficit
    old Bibles piled on shelves and in corners begging for readers
    blessed cool in the summer for VBS
    an underpaid custodian wondering what is the point?
    its time for a new floor, how can we pay for it?
    when was the last time someone washed the curtains?
    why is there such a large stage?
    no, Jesus did not look like he does in that picture
    this is his space though. You can say his name, “Jesus” without getting curious stares
    Just don’t hide him down there and lock him in
    We’re meeting here the last Sunday of the month after worship. Kent is coming to speak and we should give more to Fowler. There will be coffee and refreshments

  • James Brumm says:

    NIce meeting poetry, Kent. You, too, Fred (and Anne).

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