Because I grew up going to church the only time I was ever able to sleep in on Sunday was if I was sick or on a vacation somewhere.
I often envied people who spoke about sleeping in or those from the car window going for runs, walking their dog, playing with their kids at the park.
Especially when the weather started to get nice I remember swinging my legs on a pew and looking longingly out the window where the birds were singing and the sun was shining. As the pastor spoke on I daydreamed in my pretty dress.
Despite my longings and envies, I kept the Sunday morning habit after moving away from home and being in charge of my own schedule. I had found a unique place of belonging.
Where else could I go to find people of all different ages, backgrounds, careers, socioeconomic statuses, talents, hobbies and personalities gathered together to sing, love on each other and interact with our Creator.
It was at church where I had the courage to progress from choir singing and private piano playing to leading a band (of people older and more talented than me) and congregation in making a joyful noise
It was at church that I discovered my passion for children and interest in teaching
It was at church that I had an army of ladies praying for the husband that I hadn’t met yet and struggled to believe that he existed.
It was at church that I wrestled with my identity and values and came to grips with my ideas about God, myself and the world.
I heard sermons that invigorated me, angered me and ones that made me fight off sleep.
It was church that I witnessed sad conflict and break ups and miscommunications
And it was there that I witnessed beautiful reconciliation.
I welcomed newly born physical babies, spiritual babies and said good bye and wept for departing loved ones.
Sunday mornings at church was as much a way of life as eating breakfast.
This year was the first time I left one church before going to another one right away. Forest and I were driving across two cities and 40 minutes- 1 hour of traffic to a congregation near UBC. Forest joined as a student and stayed there after grad. As a bride-to-be I naturally accompanied him. But the commute was taking it’s toll, especially during the week. We held on for the first 4 months of marriage because my husband struggles with change and his life had already changed in every imaginable way. In 2016, he bought a house, got a new job, for a wife and his parents immigrated from Shanghai.
I remember the afternoon that I dissolved in tears… “I can’t do this anymore!” I cried to Forest. I loved our Sunday morning gatherings at Dunbar, I loved volunteering with the ESL class on Wednesday’s… but the isolation during the week set in. I couldn’t just meet a friend for tea. Going to small group was an epic exhausting trip. I longed for community in our city.
2017 brought the search for a church. In the past I had either inherited a community from my parents or Forest or settled at the first place I landed. I hated the term “church shopping” it sounded so consumeristic as if I needed a place that would meet all my needs while I sat on my butt in a pew. I wanted the place where we were “called” not the perfect place but the “right” place.
I love my husband because he balances me. I tend to make decisions on “feeling ” and “gut instinct” which is good but can also get me into trouble. Forest is very logical and he suggested that we make a list of pros and cons after each visit.
In the midst of our “list” visits a friend said, “you should check out COAH (city on a Hill).!” We found out later that she had never been there but saw the sign often during her bus commute.
We checked out the website and added it to the list. I started getting really excited because Forest seemed excited (he is fairly reserved in his expressions except for at our wedding)
COAH also seemed like a lively church where dancing and singing loudly was encouraged.
I sat on my hands and waited as patiently as I could while we got through our list till the COAH Sunday came.
I called this blog sleeping in Sundays because that’s what we got to do. COAH meets in the afternoon. So we woke up late, had breakfast, went back to bed, had lunch and then took a leisurely 10 minute walk to church. Wow! This is what Sabbath is supposed to be I thought. No mad scramble or angry arguments before pasting on a nice Sunday smile.
When we arrived I thought that Forest has been cloned. So many Asian guys with glasses. No one with grey hair. I felt like I was at youth group again. At the greeting time everyone said hi to their friends and Forest and I were a lonely island until a very friendly Irish lass approached with a big smile and word of encouragement.
“You will love it here.” She said. “Don’t wait for people to come to you. Move around to them.”
The sermon was so enthusiastic I was tempted to wear my concert earplugs (I did one Sunday) but now I am getting used to it. We even sat near the front last week.
At 3:30 we started our leisurely walk home, stopped at a bookstore and picked up an original copy of Les Miserables. I loved the movie but the book…. wow!
It has now been a month since we became COAHites. (We took a Sunday to visit a traditional black gospel church….so much fun!) and visit friends and family.
It’s funny how after spending 30+ years doing Sunday mornings I still feel a guilty pleasure sleeping in or going shopping on Sunday morning. Sometimes different feels wrong even when it’s good.
I am looking forward to joining my neighbours in the park and sidewalk for Sunday morning exercise. (Still enjoying sleeping in too much).
So fun going to a bubble tea shop and finding out that the owner sat right behind us last Sunday or having lunch or going to the birthday party of a long time friend and finding several COAHites there as well.