I step through the worn wooden doorway and am greeted by a rush of air that caresses my cheek. The candles that hang in lanterns cast a soft illumination, and I breathe the warm scent of old incense. I can hear the laughter of my friends drift down to hushed whispers as I lead the way in, bowing my head to the statue of Jesus that watches over those who have entered. As I raise my eyes, the calm atmosphere brings my aching heart a bit of comfort. In these last intense weeks of college finals, saying goodbye to the study-abroads, and packing up for the summer, this tranquil place gives me a sense of peace.
This church is too small to have very many pews, so they are set together in a long line down the center. People of all different kinds sit on the sturdy chestnut planks; and though their numbers are few, their love overflows the church so that even I, someone who doesn’t know this god’s kindness, can feel it.
As I move past, I try not to look at the people, trying to respect their privacy. I slide in to an empty pew, and my friend Feride joins me. This will be her last night here and I will miss her terribly over the summer. We have known each other for only a semester but she has become so dear to me. I put my arm through hers and we sit together, quietly enjoying each other’s company. Franny joins me on my other side and the boys take a seat in the row in front of us.
I glance around. The only thing that makes me absolutely sure that I haven’t been transported back to an ancient time are the audio speakers, which play lovely hymns, and the priest who sits off to the side on his computer controlling the music.
Paintings decorate the walls, and their colors and beauty amaze me. It always leaves me with a sense of happiness to be in a church like this one. So often I hear awful news of people murdering and raping, and it breaks my heart. Coming back to a church helps, not because I feel this god’s love, but because I see what the love his people have for him inspire. I look around and think, humanity may have many sins, but we redeem ourselves in our ability to love, and you have to look no further then a church, mosque, or temple to see this. These places are where you can see what love can create. The heavy scent of incense is making me sleepy, and I lean my head on Feride’s shoulder.
The boys silently rise in front of us and I can feel Franny stand up as well. Feride whispers, “Are you ready?” I sigh. Of course I’m not ready I think. But I raise my head and nod. Feride and I move out of the pew and back towards the door. Chris bows his head and makes the sign of the cross, and through the doorway I can see the hustle and bustle of everyday life waiting outside for me in the evening darkness.
Chris and Feride walk out, and I take one last look at the altar. I bow my head and then follow my friends into the night.