Attendance at churches continues to decrease and I think that is sad —especially when church can be a sanctuary from the awful ugliness in our country. It is also a place for quiet reflection, relaxation, friendship and worship.

I grew up in the Winthrop Methodist church, where my mother was the organist and choir director. Almost every kid sang in the children’s choir, and when I was a teenager I sung in both the children’s and the adult choir.

On Sunday afternoons, friends would gather around Mom and her organ in our house and we’d sing favorite hymns for an hour. Mom played with enthusiasm, and I still love hearing our hymns jazzed up.

I also served communion as a teenager, something I really enjoyed. There was an altar in front of the church where many would kneel when taking communion.

My wife Linda and I now attend the Readfield Methodist church where I sung in the choir until my illness, ALS, took away my singing voice.

Yes, Mom, I was still singing in the choir more than 60 years after you got me started!

Our pastor, Myung Park, is from South Korea, and she is terrific. For one thing, she always includes children’s time in our service. And she is very open to new ideas. A few months ago, at our request, she allowed us to wear T-shirts or colorful clothes to our Sunday service.

A church friend had purchased each of us a beer T-shirt featuring a bear with deer antlers (Bear + deer=beer). And he and I wore our beer T-shirts to church that Sunday. Myung even offered popcorn at the back of church and urged us to enjoy it throughout the service. That is my kind of pastor!

A couple years ago Myung was away and asked me to conduct the service. For my sermon, I read a story about my mom that was in a book, and then we sang about 15 of my favorite old hymns — every verse of every hymn. I didn’t even read any Scripture. I think when Myung heard what I’d done, she was quite surprised.

I especially loved it when our church choir would hit the road to visit and sing for folks who were unable to get to church. We visited individuals and nursing homes. It was especially nice when the folks we visited would join us in some of the songs.

Linda and I were married in the Jesse Lee church on Route 17 in Readfield, the oldest Methodist Church in Maine. And we have a painting of that church, done by Florence Daly of Augusta. Florence was our favorite artist, and she did several paintings for us, including one of our house.

My mom and dad are buried in the cemetery right across the road from the Jesse Lee church. And during the summer, we have Sunday evening service’s there. I have always been grateful to Mom for anchoring me in the church.

Our congregation is a wonderful group of people, many of which volunteered to help us get through my illness. And they actually took out a couple of pews up back so I can sit there in my wheelchair, and they put a comfortable chair next to me for Linda.

I’ve always liked communion but they don’t make me ride up to the front of the church in my wheelchair for that. They serve it to me at the back of church. Myong always delivers a thoughtful sermon and we often sing some of my favorite hymns. I sing along as best I can.

My favorite time on Sunday mornings is actually after the service when we all gather downstairs for coffee and food and fellowship. Linda will tell you I am usually the last person to leave.

I encourage you to attend a church service next Sunday, and discover what church can do for you.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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