Wineskins Archive

December 9, 2013

Leaving Church (May 2012)

Filed under: — @ 11:01 pm and

By Jeremy Paden

It begins with the tears no one notices,
not the ones that well-up mid-sermon
and lead you down the aisle at altar call,
but the ones you hold back until, car door
shut, you sob in the shadow of the steeple.

Something has been said on forgiveness,
the same thing has been said that has been said
for years, for thirty years, for forty;
since sister Selina Moore Holman,
was told by the good brother Lipscomb
that she was too deaf to hear the Spirit
telling her: I suffered you take the lead
once; your strong emotional nature led
you to violate God’s word, shipwreck a world.
I cannot again trust you to lead.

You remember morning chapel at college
when the preacher praised his proverbial
wife, busy about the task of working out
her salvation, heard his sermon on slopes
slippery and broken hermeneutic limbs,
that ended dismissing Deborah
as exceptio probat regulam.

And when crossing the quad between classes,
you remember the Bible boys discussing:
you will long for your husband and he will
rule over you; remember their girlfriends
return from praying on white swings under
dogwoods repeating: let this be my cross.

The tears began before this sermon on
Peter asking how many times he should
forgive his neighbor, this sermon where
the preacher joked no matter the changes
in worship style a woman would not stand
before them, pointing to where he stood,
in a robe next Sunday leading choir.

Indeed, seventy times seven. You do
the math, add up the countless elder’s wives
whose husbands were appointed so the aura
of power would lure them back to the pew;
to those you add the Sunday school teachers
removed from their third grade class, a boy
of eight was baptized; you add the wives
and daughters who never learned to pray;
and the number of times you’ve heard casseroles
and cookies are the true ministry of women;
and you add… and you add… and you add…

How long must you drink from the bitter cup
of your trampled gifts as if it were
the cup of forgiveness before you cross
the sea and dance with Miriam on the shore,
before you find a place where you can recite
the words of your sister poets in mixed
company, where your mother no longer
has to pray behind closed-doors but can lead
the full assembly to the gates of heaven?

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