Spiritual Non-Fiction posted March 3, 2020

This work has reached the exceptional level
Revisiting a time I should have stood up for faith

The Do Over

by CharR

I should have said something, done something, but I just sat there like the other thirty people in the room, silent. Now looking back, almost 20 years to the day, I replay the events which are the same, right up until he makes those soul sucking remarks. Him, a Priest, our Priest, leading the Bible Study that had been so vibrant and enriching, until that moment.

Under his guidance the group had grown from just a handful of us to at least thirty every week. The location within the church had moved again and again as the attendance outgrew the room. Now we were in the community hall, the largest space. The tables were arranged around the perimeter of the room with everyone facing inward, so we could all see each other as we discussed scripture and the impact it had on our lives.

I started attending St Wilfred's Episcopal Church in Huntington Beach California shortly after my divorce. I was seeking forgiveness and redemption through prayer and study to be able to move forward with my life. I fully immersed myself in church activities. I taught Jr High Sunday School, led the Senior High youth group, took communion to the elderly and disabled and I started a four year Theology Course. I was chugging along quite well, and then I lost my job. The job loss was truly a Godsend, prayers requested and answered. A story which deserves it's own narrative. But the job loss was how I had come to join the midday Bible Study.

The week prior, as we went around the room to 'check in' with each other a women who was newer to the group, Cassandra, told us an amazing story. She shared with us how this Bible Study was truly life changing. That now in her 50's she had finally come back to church after being absent since her teenage years. She told us how we had all been so welcoming, helping her through the devastating loss of her husband. She had been strengthened by the words read each week and the stories shared. She confided that she believed coming to the study had saved her life, one that she had contemplated taking not so long ago. As she talked, I saw God at work. I believed we had been led by God's hand to help this woman. I felt so alive, inspired and uplifted by her story and our role supporting her.

As Bible Study began the next week Harold, our Priest, started by stating that we should go around the room as usual, but that there really wasn't time to hear about how this study had changed anyone's life. Most of the people had been there the previous week and knew he was referring to Cassandra's story. And by the look on every one's faces, we were all mortified. But no one said anything to contradict the Priest, including me.

That is where I want to change the story. Instead of me talking about some inconsequential event that had occurred that week, my new ending goes something like this: "Father Clinehens, I am unclear on why discussions about how this Bible Study was changing lives would be something that you, this group, or God would not have time to discuss. The story of Cassandra's struggles and her ability to overcome them through prayer and study are precisely the reason Bible Studies occur, to witness how God can be present in our daily lives and how a community can come together and help each other. As Jesus said when asked about which commandment was the most important, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.There is no commandment greater than these.'

By sharing her story last week, Cassandra and our study group were demonstrating these two great commandments. So, I encourage everyone here to share these types of stories not just here, but also with friends, with family and with strangers in person or on the Internet. Be witnesses to Gods love and our love for one another. At that point in my rewrite, the group stands up one by one and applauds. I nod to Cassandra and everyone moves to surround her with love, except Harold who stomps out of the room.

The Past 20 Years contest entry
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