Today's a roots day for me. No, I'm not eating turnips (though I've come to appreciate them). The day started out with a glance out at all the lovely tiger lillies and coneflowers and hostas blooming up and down along the brick sidewalks in this well-established Urbana neighborhood. After that a 15-minute walk to the local Methodist church. Now that's where the roots start coming in. As a child and teen every Sunday morning I'd walk through the streets of my hometown to the Fairview United Methodist Church on Robinson Street. My parents were married there, April 1, 1945. My parents' funeral services were held there, too -- mom's in 1984 and dad's in 1988. I returned there for the first time just last year while passing through Binghamton NY on the way to mom and dad's grave in Hillcrest. As luck would have it, it was a Sunday and the Sunday service had not long been over. As I pulled up, Mr. Henecy was coming out the door and after a moment he remembered me, and especially my mom, and insisted on giving me a grand tour of the newly-refurbished church (sorry, Bud...I liked it the old way better). Call me a traditionalist. I am.
Anyway, this morning I started off in my Doc Martins tramping across the herringboned bricks which heaved up this way and that, crossed a few quiet streets and made my way into the First Methodist Church of Urbana. Nice place. Friendly folks and I was made to feel most welcome. Things have changed over the years in the Methodist Church, as in most churches. Things are more casual. The minister, Dr. Sims, I believe, seemed a very likeable, casual sort of guy who clearly wanted young folks to relate to what he was saying. The sermon wasn't Fire And Brimstone a bit but rather a series of anecdotes from his own life (including but not limited to camping on a hilltop in a rough shed with no "facilities" nor utilities on an air mattress on the floor that decided to deflate during the night; a cell phone that went off at 4 a.m., and such things, all this tied in to the Lord's conversation with Jeremiah, but that's another story). It was great to sing the Doxology and say the Lord's Prayer and utter all those pieces of Methodist Church tradition that I've heard and said since I was barely able to talk. It has been a number of years since I've darkened the door of a Methodist church (not because I don't like them!), call it failure to plan ahead. Call it being on the road too much. Call it lack of ROOTS. My roots these days are the shallow kind. Some day I'll probably topple over like a pine tree in a heavy wind.
So there I was in the Methodist Church on a Sunday morning and I was warmly greeted by several older folk, always the custodians of church greeting, it seems. And the first hymn was a good old one and I sang with gusto. I was surprised to hear several other folks singing with gusto. I was also surprised -- very -- that there was NO CHOIR. Don't think I've ever been in a Methodist church that didn't have a choir. Perhaps they're on vacation this week. There wasn't even a soloist, either, and I couldn't help but be very surprised at that. The sermon was a good one and I liked the way Rev. Dr. Sims wore one of those cordless mics concealed somewhere on his person. He was able to get out among the people in the pews (they were very comfortable with lovely red pads) and speak more personally than some cold preacher ranting from the pulpit. Sims didn't rant. He seemed like the guy next door. I liked the warmth of his style and the message he delivered. It was about listening and doing. Listening to what God is asking to do, and then doing it. It was about not making excuses as Jeremiah tried to do. It was about getting out there and doing your best, trying.
I'd been out walking around the neighborhood a few times in the last couple of days and kept passing this church and it just called to me. It's a lot bigger than most churches I've ever attended, but I had a curiosity about what it would be like to go there. I wasn't put off that I don't know anyone who attends that church or that I'd have to go alone. I quite liked the whole idea, really. And it was a good experience. The only thing I wasn't wild about were these "new" hymns. Church and tradition are closely tied together for me and I don't really like singing hymns from the 80s. I get enough folk music in the balance of my life! Not that 1st Methodist Urbana is unusual in singing the new hymns...they were in the Methodist hymnal. Too bad. I don't think they'll win young people over to the church, but maybe they're in there for some "other" reason. Don't mess with Paradise I say.
Now more about Roots Day...well, walking to church made me think about the old days in Binghamton and about walking to church all those times (I cheated sometimes and rode in the family car, but I've always loved walking in general). And then I got thinking, naturally, about the summers when I was a camp counselor at the (sort of)local Methodist church camp, Sky Lake. Naturally that led me to think about various experiences and friends I'd made there and all the happy memories I still cherish. And that led me to wonder where my good friend Craig from Sky Lake has vanished to; we used to write lots of letters to each other back in high school and were the best of friends. I went to his wedding way, way back - it was held at Sky Lake - maybe close to 30 years ago? That was about the last time I saw Craig. So you know Google? I Googled Craig and had some trouble since his name isn't what you'd call uncommon, but I think I've come up with him. I've sent him an email and hope that I've found him. Who knows? Maybe we'll be friends once again. At any rate, I found a website that I think is Craig's and if you're a photographer or a gardener or just someone who likes to read things about life that are well-written, check out this website, even if it doesn't turn out to be my old buddy Craig. It's a dandy site! http://www.remarc.com/craig/?cat=10
Meanwhile I've been thinking about living in the present and also honoring the past. Perhaps I honor the past a little too much for my own good. I dunno. Anyway I realized that I don't keep in touch with ANYONE from my hometown. Nobody. I don't keep in touch with ANYONE from my teenage or college years either. And frankly that seems sort of strange. So I'm hoping that this link (Craig) will be reforged and perhaps will provide a bridge back to some of those wonderful days of youth!
Meanwhile, I'm going to go and check on Raven the cat, edit some photos so these large blocks of type can be broken up a bit with some photographs, and things like that. Since "Roots Day" is my theme today I'm going to try to get in touch with some other friends from my past. It seems like a very nice thing to do.