|The church my grandfather Floyd McCoy built my grandmother|
In principio erat verbum
Commonly, it’s where we come from and how we relate to those places and people that fix our faith and points of view. For instance, a kindergarten transplant from eastern Kentucky, I’d never met a Catholic or saw a Roman Catholic church before my parents moved our family to Detroit. The soaring steeples along Woodward and Gratiot Avenues were mammoth compared to Granny’s one-room church house. I thought the Catholics rich, yet knew my grandmother wasn’t poor.
My parents weren’t churchgoers, didn’t instruct my sisters and me in the Bible. Nonetheless, every summer, Granny preached the Gospel in her words and deeds. The Scriptures followed her everywhere. She turned thanks over meals. And before we drove away from her Appalachian door for Michigan, she petitioned the Lord's protection over us.
When I was nine, we moved to 25708 Wagner in Warren. A yellow bus appeared in front of our house every Friday night for Pioneer Girls, and Sunday morning for Sunday school and worship service. A smiling man opened the door to my older sister and me. Verna Wilson, my Pioneer Girl guide, gifted me my first study Bible after I was baptized. Mrs. Urban passed butterscotch Lifesavers down the row for her worship service orphans.
I’m thankful Mom trusted my formative years to the church bus. Van Dyke Baptist Church was my haven. Meanwhile, I watched bulldozers develop my favorite neighborhood swamp into St. Dorothy Roman Catholic Church. The Halaas kids, two doors down, passed our picture window Saturday morning en route to catechism.
After little Pammy Halaas died of leukemia, my family followed hers into St. Dorothy for her funeral. All I remember is Mr. Halass’ pitiful lamentation as he walked behind her casket.
Almost sixty years later, my husband and I attended a funeral mass yesterday for a brother-in-law’s mother. As a boy, he rode his bike past our house to St. Dorothy, fell in love with one of my younger sisters. They married while in college. Like mine, theirs wasn’t a Catholic wedding.
Having experienced my mother-in-law’s funeral mass last September, I recognized the liturgy, the songs sung like opera arias. “How lovely is your dwelling place, mighty God, oh Lord of all,” and “He will lift you up on eagle’s wings.” I scribbled down the Latin words inscribed on the pulpit to translate later.
In the lobby, a small delegation of gray-headed men from our old neighborhood gathered around my brother-in-law for the man slap on his back. “We’re next,” one said. They recalled Wagner’s bully who happened to be a girl, reminisced the remarkable place and time in which we grew up. “It began to fall apart with the shot in Dallas,” said the eldest man amongst us.
Dear Reader, I’m not qualified to respond to his philosophy. Rather, I hold fast to the Latin on the pulpit. “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Peace be with you.