We left our last church and ventured out to find another. We didn't have any children at the time and we wanted to find one that felt like home. You see, for us, church had to be somewhere where we felt comfortable. Somewhere that we felt safe. We needed good preaching and nice people.
We wanted to start fresh. Somewhere new. So, we began looking.
We hit the yellow pages and decided to go top to bottom, a dart would have been a better idea, but we tried it this way. Why? I don't know. It really isn't important, so don't get hung up on it. Let's move on.
We tried a few. Nothing impressive. Nothing jumped out.
Now, since we didn't have too much dough, and Shannon's job needed her to work one Sunday a month. Sometimes, she would allow me to venture on my own, like an errant dog, in hopes of finding a church that we could both attend.
So, there I was, riding solo...without Tonto. (But if truth be told...I'm more of the Tonto.) Okay, so we'll scratch that last part. There I was, Tonto, riding solo. Sunday morning came and she went to work, I headed to a random church. Gotta admit, a little intimating. I walked through the double doors of this unnamed church. People seemed friendly enough with their plastic smiles and their 'howdoyados'. I smiled back, keeping my distance. I was reserved, like I get with crowds. (Sure, I can speak behind a computer screen...but when I go face to face with a stranger I instantly become an inept jellyfish. I slur my speech. I mumble my words. And most people assume that I am mentally challenged.)
"Hi, thanks for joining us today."
"I like ice cream."
But, I continue to play the part of acting like a mature adult. I sat down, four pews from the back. I sat on the end and placed a hymnal next to me. I needed space. They had a picture of Jesus in the front, kinda looked like graffiti and Jesus himself bore an odd resemblance to Walter Matthau. The preacher got up and lifted his hands, high into the air, and said that we were going to pray. "Let us all link hands."
This was new. This was uncomfortable. I am a stranger. You are strangers. I don't want to link hands, thank you. I want to close my eyes and pray. But, I did it. A balding man, wearing a blue blazer and looking like Patrick Stewart, grabbed my wrist and closed his eyes. We were linked like sausages. "This will be over soon," I told myself. Sit tight.
The prayer was a mega-prayer. And when it finally ended I learned that Mr. Stewart wasn't done yet. He would not let go. He had quite the grip. I shook my arm, and he held on. I was flailing around like a drowning swimmer...and strong hands wouldn't let go. I was a drowning swimmer and Jaws here, had sunk his teeth into my wrist. I raised my arm above my head and quickly snapped it down, breaking myself free and that is when I quickly exited the church...brushing past anyone that was in my way. I could not leave fast enough.
One of the greeters, a man with a large mustache, began to follow me, and now I was in full sprint. "Sir, is there a problem?" he called, chasing me.
There was. I ducked behind a car and then in full sprint made it to my car. I even drove fast, checking my rearview as I drove. I was home. Safe and sound.
The following week, we both attended a quite large church building. Beautiful interiors. So far, so good. It seemed pleasant enough. Everyone smiled as we entered and we took a seat near the front left of the pulpit. No Grumpy Old Man Jesus here. The first few songs were nice and seemed quite enjoyable. There were about one hundred or so people standing and singing. The preacher, who reminded me of Don Johnson circa Miami Vice, then got up and made a few quick announcements and mentioned that he saw some visitors. He then looked at us. Directly at us.
"Well, newcomers, stand up and tell us your names," he said.
What? This can't be happening. All eyes were on us.
"Go ahead, stand up and say your names."
Give fake names.
Give fake names.
My brain was shouting. We needed Detectives Crockett and Tubbs to get us out of this mess.
But, they didn't...and I couldn't give a fake name. We both stood and I said, in my best mumble..."Bill Merkh and Shannon."
The preacher seemed satisfied. "Okay, everyone. While, this next song play through, go up and say 'hello' to Murk and Shannon."
Wouldn't you know. The music started. And they all got in a single file line down the center aisle and began to greet us. "Hello Murk," they'd say as they shook my hand. "Nice to meet you Murk." I shook their hands and said 'hello' never correcting them, while Shannon kept repeating "his is name is Bill." Less people greeted us at our wedding.
We left as soon as the final whistle had blown, we were out the doors. "Goodbye, Murk."
"Murk, it was a pleasure to meet you."
We are happy at our church now. We have found one that we love. There are no wrist locks or chases and nobody makes a scene about us.
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