Yesterday's Magazette

9 – Church of My Heart

Church of My Heart

By Sylvia Bright-Green

One warm Sunday morning a friend invited me to attend a worship service at her country church. During our drive, my friend told of how her quaint country church, dating from the late 1800s, still retained its old-fashioned charm of whitewashed wood siding, oak-planked floors and pews, and stained-glass windows. This type of Norman Rockwell house of prayer was distinctly memorable to me, because it was similar to the rustic “little church in the dale” where I learned to express forgiveness and sisterly/brotherly love.

On our drive to her church, my friend and I talked of our relationships with our families. She has one sister and one brother. I related that I had four sisters, three of which are still living, and nine brothers, one of which is now deceased. We agreed that our siblings were important to us, and we would not hesitate to be there for them if there was ever a need. We likewise agreed that sisters, no matter what happens between them, are definitely tied by heartstrings.

As my friend’s car crested the top of the hill on Route 83, she proudly announced, “That’s my church there in the distance.”

I glanced up from searching in my purse for my lipstick, and my heart signaled instant recognition of the church steeple, stark and white, overlooking the lush green hills against a sapphire blue sky. Nearing the church, I heard the steeple bells tolling its prayer, beckoning all to come and abide.

Immediately, heartfelt feelings of nostalgia engulfed me about the beloved farm church of my youth. Moreover, at that moment, it didn’t matter anymore that my friend’s house of worship wasn’t of my faith. It only mattered that I was coming home to the church of my heart. Many instances throughout my married life of forty years, I had mentally attended this “meeting house” of my memories, not knowing that within miles of my home an exact replica of it still existed.

When I stepped onto the church’s weathered wooden walk and entered its double oak doors with hammered pewter handles, I was instantaneously transported to one of those significant Sundays of yesteryear in 1948.

Neighborly door-greeters welcomed my teenaged sister, Peggy, and me inside our farm community place of worship with a smile, a handshake, or a hug, whichever we felt comfortable in giving and receiving. This humanitarian reception, along with the church’s piped organ music, straightaway gave me feelings that genuine caring radiated from this church’s Tamarack rafters to its squeaky hardwood floors.

On one particular Sunday, after the litany had been said, my sister got up from the pew where she was sitting, estranged from me, and limped to the front of the church. With quivering hands she opened her hymnal and began to sing.

My mouth gaped in disbelief. This angelic voice was actually coming from my sister. This was the same voice that had screeched at me like a banshee witch earlier, saying, “I wish you had never been born,” then slapping me hard, leaving a rouged glow on my cheek?

I could still feel the sting of that slap as I sat stunned over the melodious sound of my sister’s voice. Is this really my sibling? I can’t believe it. Yet, as I listened to her honeyed voice, my heart swelled with pride. Tears ran down my cheeks, and I felt guilty. I shouldn’t have kicked her in the shin, and said all those nasty things to her during our argument over who does more work in the house.

Feeling ashamed, I tried to get my sisters attention during her solo. When she finally glanced in my direction, I silently mouthed the words, “I’m sorry. I love you.” These were words that our family never said to each other, they were just taken for granted.

With the nod of her head, she gave me an affectionate smile, which I took to mean that she, too, had the same regrets.

Immediately I felt an inner stirring of admiration and genuine love for her. Living with her and my other siblings, I only saw the daunting, “get even” side of their natures. I never really knew what they could be like inwardly, until now.

Here in the midst of all these people, I discovered something special about my sister that I never bothered to know before. I felt blessed that she was my sister.

During this notable insight, which I attributed to my newfound sibling love and the genuine humbleness of my surroundings, I realized how the congregation and everything in this church seemed aglow. And from this glowing perception, during my twelfth year of adolescence, I learned that love should also come from the mouth, not just from stirrings of the heart.

Reliving this special moment, fifty-three years later while visiting my friend’s church, I gleaned another realization: It’s not just on Sundays we should wear our crown; it’s every day, with hearts wide open, not closed down.

*Sylvia has been writing for over thirty years and has been published in 1600 publications and in eleven anthologies. She has written five books (still awaiting publication) and is working on her sixth.

Vol. 38 No. 2 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette


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