What Christ Church Means to MeBy Janet Quartarone
My husband Dale is very fond of saying that actors are, at heart, misfits. (He’s allowed to say that; he’s an actor himself.) And I know what he means. To a greater or lesser extent, depending upon the individual, We feel different, we’re perceived as different, there are many places where we don’t feel at home, the way we do when we’re in a theatre. And that desire to feel at home somewhere is, I think, an elemental, and universal, need.
And first and foremost, that is the word that comes to me when I think of Christ Church, “home”. The same home that Robert Frost described as the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. – But perhaps that’s one of the things I most love about this place – they don’t really have to take you in here, do they? You’re not obligated, are you? We’re not family…well, actually, we are, but still, you know what I’m saying. — From the very first day I set foot in here, I felt welcome, welcomed. Here’s this odd one, this bit of a bohemian, doesn’t live in Summit, not moneyed or connected, no kids…but I always felt at home. Such a simple concept. So much in life is so complicated, but being here, what I feel here, isn’t complicated. Deep, rich – but not complicated.
And perhaps, with much due respect, and at the risk of being misinterpreted, maybe we’re all misfits here. The lapsed Catholics (oh, I’m one of those, too), the dissatisfied Methodists, the still-searching Jews, and on and on… maybe that’s why we come together in this safe place, and call it home.
And you know how, sometimes in one’s life, when things are really overwhelming, you just try to get thru the day, and get home, so you can close the door, and let go, and maybe have a good cry? Christ Church is that for me too. How many times have I sat out there, and cried? If they’re able to see that much detail of folks in the congregation when they’re in the pulpit, Chuck and Julie must think I’m a bit of an hysteric, or at least very allergic to something. But when some hymn is just achingly beautiful, or some theme in the sermon goes right to my core, seems to speak just to me – or the children’s choir sings and I watch those perfect little beings up there, I can’t help but cry. But it’s never a diminishing thing, as it can be elsewhere in my life; here I always have a feeling of completion, or fulfillment.
So this place is a haven, a place where I can be accepted for myself, where I can be myself – but (here’s another part of the equation for me): the best part of myself. The places I return to, despite distance and circumstance, the experiences I wish to revisit, are the ones where I know the best part of me is called to the table, where I feel I’m at my best. The fact that we have something here like the Illuminators, so that people like myself can contribute to the life of the church through their unique strengths, is a great gift.
But, I’ve now spent a page of this musing talking about Christ Church as “this place” and “it”. And that does not do Christ Church justice. Because this church, as it should be, is its people. It made a terrific impression on me all those years ago when the Sunday bulletin described the congregation of Christ Church as the ministers of Christ Church. And the song the kids sometime sing about the fact that “ we are the church”. We’re it. That always appealed to me. I never thought it made sense for spirituality to be a passive thing; it has to be active, intentional. It should honor and exercise the best part of each of us.
I know we’re each of us imperfect beings, but together… I think it must be like that phenomenon of putting together a group of people, some who sing, and some who don’t but together they make a beautiful sound. (That must have a name, but I don’t know what it is, I should ask Holly.) Here, together, with the unique perspective of angels like Julie and Chuck, we’ve created and perpetuated something expansive and understanding and generous, with intelligence, creativity and great humor. We guide the church, and the church guides us. It’s unique in my experience.
I’ve come here for over 20 years now, and whether you knew it or not, you have all been through a great many life changing things with me, bad and good – from my mother’s illness and passing and the dissolution of my first marriage, to my marriage now to Dale.
When I was living thru the twists and turns of my earlier marriage, there were people here who took me in, to their home.
When my Mom died, Squire Knox drove me one day soon after, to 2 different spots near here – to see 2 different trees. Two beautiful, ancient trees that spoke volumes about the constancy, the continuity of nature, of Life. He had hit upon an even more important concept than I imagine he intended. It was, and is, a great comfort – to think about things that can live on, that have the strength, and the depth of roots, to survive.
That is my impression of, and my hope for, Christ Church. That it will be home for generations beyond any of us, that its message will always be one of welcome, acceptance and appreciation. That it will be a spiritual home base for many other misfits, like or unlike myself, for many years to come.
December 17, 2006