Down by the Riverside
There were too many people. The pews were stuffed, the back of the church filled with overflow. So when it came time for communion, even despite the use of three stations that moved more swiftly than if all had kneeled at the altar, the line of people outlasted the prepared hymns.
One or two wayward notes trilling from the organ.
Then a man stepped into the aisle. Not attired in choir robes but resplendent in an emerald green suit, a beautiful tie heavily knotted at his neck. He began to clap. “Gonna lay down my sword and shield.”
Immediately those in the pew took up the beat. “Down by the riverside,” they sang. “Down by the riverside.”
At the front of the church, the people bowed their heads and accepted the host.
“Ain’t gonna study war no more,” the congregation sang, and the stained glass windows shook with the ringing voices.
Lent was a bitch. The vegan days. The realization I was a near-constant critiquer of people. The lack of alcohol to make it any easier.
“Down by the riverside. Gonna lay down my sword and shield.” The man’s voice rose, soaring to the rafters.
“Down by the riverside,” the people shouted, splitting the golden incense hanging in the air.
My disciplines were appropriate. They challenged my existing view of the world, leaving me in a different place from where I’d begun. I didn’t like it, but I did it.
“I ain’t gonna study war no more.” The man lead, and the people rocked and repeated. “Study war no more.”
Lent is gone, vanquished by clapping and singing and foot-stomping joy.
Easter is here.
“Down by the ri-ver-side.”
And, because there were too many people, I got a resurrection service I will never forget.
here’s to creative synthesis . . . .
A new wave is sweeping through our pews. Phyllis Tickle called it “The Emerging Church.” Dietrich Bonhofer found it in African American churches in Harlem. And now it is coming to our little corner of the world. This new wave will encourage us to accept our full humanity and join the singing.
Ellen Morris Prewitt