On the train ride east, a missionary traveling to her home in the same city befriended the family. She offered that when they were settled she would see that the five older children were taken to Sunday School.
The only church connection the children had had to that time was Sunday morning meetings conducted by a group of farmers in a one-room schoolhouse near the farm. One of the farmers gave the talk. Sometimes it was her father.
By contrast, in Ontario these children were taken by the kind missionary woman to a fine church building with a towering spire where they attended Sunday School and morning worship. The two youngest children stayed with their mother.
After Sunday School, Kathleen recalls, she and the four other children sat silently in a pew waiting for the worship service to begin. Here’s how she describes her experience:
The organist was playing a prelude as the worshipers gathered quietly. When it was time to begin, the choir members filed into the chancel and took their places. The robed minister followed, walked directly to the pulpit, and as he did the organ music swelled and the congregation stood and all sang “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”
It was the same every Sunday and her eight-year-old response was the same every Sunday too. Deep feelings of awe, reverence, and mystery!
I remember a similar sense of awe connected with church during my childhood but in a very different context. The church my younger sister and I attended with our parents was a very simple building. It was one rectangular room equipped with approximately 150 unpadded theater seats.
On a slightly raised platform there was a simple oak pulpit and behind it against the wall were three chairs. In front of the pulpit was an oak communion table. There was no piano or organ, no choir loft, no carpeted aisles, no microphone. The little black hymn books had only words, no music.
We four entered the church to total silence. It was the custom for the adults to kneel for prayer at their seats so our parents knelt for a short time and then seated themselves. The gathering congregation sat in silence waiting for the service to begin. There was no talking. I can feel that silence yet. As I think of it now it was a silence that seemed to give even an active boy’s mind a momentary sense of reverence.
I also once felt that sense of awe when these believers gathered around the altar to pray at the close of the service. I believe I was five.
And I recall that one Sunday morning I went to church ahead of my parents and sister so I was one of the first to arrive there. As I opened the outside door into the vestibule I could see straight up the aisle. There I saw the communion table prepared for communion with a white linen cloth over the elements. I do recall the flash of mystery this sight gave to my boyish mind. I may have been eight.
Whether in a grand edifice of brick and stone or a small clapboard-sided meeting house, the essence of true worship is awe mixed with penitence and joy and renewed faith. “Our God is an awesome God.”