Where Is Your Church?

I live in a part of town where I see literally dozens of folks strolling by, many of them walking their dogs. (Sometimes I think it’s the other way around, since the walkers are often obediently following their dogs!)

A favorite route of mine is down to the Chemung river, just a few blocks south from my home. After several seasonal thunderstorms, it’s now a serene brown with fewer mosquitoes than usual — always a risk after almost daily showers. Taking advantage of ideal temperatures, I tramped down a couple of streets, then up the slope to walk on the levee for as long as my waning energies would allow.

I soon saw another walker coming from the opposite direction. Surprisingly, I recognized him and was even able to recall his name. “Arthur!”

He looked quite puzzled to hear his name —  probably because there aren’t many African Americans in this neighborhood who might know him. As a matter of fact, this was our third encounter. The first one had struck me as so unique that I couldn’t forget him. And why was that? 

We had met on the levee, just as we had last week, and continued chatting after the first friendly greetings. Before I knew it, there he was quoting Scripture at me. Not that he sounded “righteous” or holier-than-thou. It just fit comfortably into our topic. I thought he must be a pastor somewhere so I asked him, “Arthur, where is your church?”

He aimed his walking stick straight down, making a dent in the soil. “Right HERE!” said he, most unequivocally.

At this third meeting, he was again puzzled that I called him by name. I suppose this was because, in his mind, he hadn’t said anything unusual or memorable in bringing God into the conversation. He carried his thoughts of God with himself as a matter of course. Wherever the paths Arthur’s conversation may have taken him, there was God within him as his walking companion.

I find this encounter particularly meaningful these days. In over a year we’ve seldom had the opportunity to attend a liturgy in person and in a building we call “Church.” Arthur figured it out. If we could think of “Church” as St. Paul teaches, we’d take comfort in finding God and Church in others, wherever we are.