Like the Wicked Witch of the West when doused with water, this church diminishes.
Of course, its music is impossible to sing. And that’s part of it.
But there’s also the pastor—a man about the size and shape of Jabba the Hutt—with a tendency to laugh and smile like he’s keeping an evil secret or perhaps sharing one especially with you.
The people are kind and welcoming, numbering no more than 50. I hear from my friend the organist that they can’t afford to pay Jabba. They won’t be able to afford to heat the church this winter. He says the way Jabba and the board are talking about this, they expect a miracle from God.
My friend says that they regularly get visitors, but none of them returns. It’s like there is plague here. Or the rumor of plague.
It’s mostly an older crowd. Older like me or even older than that. Perhaps the young have all, one speculates, been murdered in unspeakable midnight rituals by the vile Jabba. Or perhaps there’s a more mundane explanation. Maybe they were just bored to death.
As I say, the people. The poor people. They have the gentleness about them of people who have suffered terribly at the hands of a despot. A tyrant. People who long for release from their evil captor but who dare not risk escape, for fear of reprisals. For fear of the torture their remaining family and friends will have to endure.
I say diminishing. What I mean is, the people are melting away. Dying off, certainly. Many members are sick at home or in the hospital. (Hence the plague metaphor.) Others are moving away or have moved away as the neighborhood has deteriorated and has now been eviscerated by a flood.
I’m told the nearby interstate put a steal-reinforced concrete stake into the lungs of this church when the roadway was built in the 1960s.
After the service, drinking coffee, I get to know Jabba’s assistant a little. A professor from a local university who has become a part-time pastor. Very well read. Curious. Full of life. Excited by ideas. Someone one might actually talk with about all this God stuff.
Someone. Diana, I’ll call her. Someone more interested in exploration than judgment. Someone who might also long to sing.