“Antiques,” the flaking wooden sign advertised, hanging over the closed double doors of an old church planted on a rural Maine hillside.
Driving past with my husband, I had just enough time to glimpse the overgrown grass and darkened windows before the church faded from view. “How sad,” I said to Dana, who sat behind the wheel. “But also how appropriate.”
In a year rife with moral failures by Christian leaders, I read with grim curiosity last week’s New York Times article describing the firing of Carl Lentz, the celebrity pastor of Hillsong’s East Coast church, who recently acknowledged that he’d had an affair. However, the affair was the least of what surprised me. That Lentz admitted to cheating on his wife seemed trivial compared to the rise of a church culture that appears to have courted megastars until the pastor became one.
It has been six months since my family went to church. For every pre-coronavirus Sunday when I fantasized about staying in bed rather than wrangling five people into a pew, I can’t believe how much I’ve miss it.
As a college student studying in Jerusalem, I was privileged to spend one rainy and cold Christmas wandering around Bethlehem with my mother. In the days before a concrete wall divided Israel from the West Bank, this majority Muslim city about six miles south of Jerusalem was an easy fifteen minute taxi or sherut ride from our school. Arab shopkeepers, with their open-sided kiosks lining the streets, sold strings of Christmas lights along with olivewood nativities and traditional sweets. With a flock of other worshipers, we knelt on the stone floor near the shrouded hollow in the Church of the Nativity where Christ is traditionally believed to have been born.