The Visitation

Dearest Rachel –

I’m told there was a French king who had been raised Protestant – a dangerous thing to be, when the deeply Catholic country was persecuting Huguenots, and your faith was pretty much inextricably linked to your patriotism (one more reason America deliberately decoupled church and state). Upon the death of his predecessor, the country (and in particular, certain organizations within the First and Second Estates) refused to recognize his title. After fighting – and winning – a series of battles, both military and diplomatic, those opposing him began to run out of options. However, it wasn’t until his mistress (yeah, he had one – this was France, after all) convinced him to convert to Catholicism that he was fully recognized and peace was restored to the kingdom. It may be apocryphal, but he was quoted as saying, “Paris is well worth a mass.”

Now, I’m not going so far as to attend a Catholic Mass today, but I have reason to suspect that this visit to another church is going to be almost as uncomfortable as doing that. Any time one visits a church other than one’s home, it’s just… different. Even that time when we were in San Antonio, and you went online to look for a church similar to ours – and no question about it, it felt almost like a clone of ours, down to a very similar name – it still felt weird.

Combine that with my reasons for doing so (to meet someone in person that I met online), and I find myself having second thoughts as to whether I should be doing this. Still, the point is in the attempt, I think; if it doesn’t work out, I can at least say that I tried, and go back to my own church home.

Since I woke up as early as I did (without an alarm clock, even!), I decided that I might as well head out there early. Their website claims that they apparently have a class at 9 before the service starts at 10:15. You always seemed to miss the fact that our church gave up on Sunday school long ago, as it began to add services at the main location (and seemed to enjoy the ones at PCC before it was converted into our Randhurst location); this might just feel like a throwback to those days.

If stoplights and traffic were to be any indication, I might have concluded that this was a promising decision. I glided up to the church in what seemed like record time, with nearly ten minutes to spare before the class was scheduled to begin. The only thing was the fact that the parking lot, while completely plowed, was utterly empty. Either there wasn’t a class after all, or it’s held at individuals’ homes, like their services on the second and fourth Sundays of the month. There was nothing to do at that point but to sit in my car and write to you about this.

However, at some point shortly thereafter, I realized there was at least one other car in the lot. Based on that discovery, I decided to test the door a second time, which actually opened this time. I found myself walking into… something more than a lobby, but less than a sanctuary.

You might have thought it looked like the vestibule of the Middle Bass town hall

Beyond the doors in the center left of this photo was the actual sanctuary, empty save for a gentleman attempting to arrange chairs in a large oval. Upon the arrival of a second gentleman, I determined that they could use my assistance, and followed him into the sanctuary.

It seemed that, despite my best efforts, I’d made myself conspicuous. There was nothing for it but to introduce myself.

Curiously, despite all the insistence on the church’s website about certain… requirements… neither of the men were wearing masks as they worked. The first one even seemed apologetic, promising that they would put them on once more people arrived. I waved away his concern with a reference to 2 Timothy 1:7.

At least everything was set up quickly enough thereafter. Many hands make light work and all that.

I know our church is known for being friendly, but I will mention that even as people began to flow in, and I tried to blend into the woodwork, I was approached by several people welcoming me to the place, and asking what brought me there. I didn’t have a good answer for that, honestly, and I’m not about to make up a cover story. I was directed to a long-time family friend who goes here, and told her the whole truth (along with forwarding Dad and Mom’s greetings to her), but for the most part, I left it with a Meta-style ‘it’s complicated.’ Because it is.

Meanwhile, the place itself reminded me in some ways of the Mennonite church out here in the suburbs where we would go every year or so to watch Andi and Al (I guess I should say ‘andi and i,’ but whatever) perform, complete with the need to reset the room for their services, as well as their pastoral staff. I wonder when (or if) those occasions will ever resume…

And while I’ve never attended a service at that old barn, today’s was about like what I would have expected from there, to be honest. Granted, there were quite a few more people there than I thought there might, but I guess that’s a good thing for them; better they be doing well, as opposed to dying on the vine.

I even met a few more faces from my past than I expected to; I’ll have to pass greetings on from them to the folks, along with other news. But while I understand that Austrine was there, I wasn’t about to introduce myself; to the best of my knowledge, she probably hasn’t had the chance to see my text telling her I would be here, so I don’t think it would have been appropriate to ask for an introduction. I may leave her another text letting her know what I’ve done, but for now, there’s nothing more to be said or done.

So, is that it? Do I write her off? Was it not meant to be?

I don’t know, honey. I think that it’s too soon to do that, as there were some missed connections along the way (particularly involving my text to her that may not have been received). To suggest she ignored me is to forget that she wasn’t expecting me; as far as she is aware, there was no missed connection – she wasn’t aware that a connection was to have been made.

But it’s not like I’m about to try again any time soon, if for no other reason than that I have my assignments and connections back here. A visit is fine, but we’ll have to wait until we’re actually on the same page to try that again. Until then, I’ll keep the books open to this same page so she can find it, if she wants to.

For now, just keep an eye out for me, honey, and wish me luck. I’ll need it.

P.S. Well, there’s an interesting epilogue to the story. After scrupulously not trying to get in touch with her face-to-face (because she hadn’t actually received my message to agree or disagree with my plan), I receive a message from her through the app:

“Hi there! Just seeing these 4 messa-”

It cuts off at that point. And I can’t look at the rest of the conversation, because she has either removed herself, or she’s been removed from the site. And having never given her my number or email address (nor, obviously, having gotten the same from her), there’s no way either of us can reach the other.

This is why I try so hard not to get my hopes up; the only thing is, it feels like I came so close, only to miss completely. I’m not gonna lie, it stings a bit.

So that closes that chapter, I suppose. It’s too bad; I think the some folks (maybe even including myself) were hoping for this to work out. Oh well.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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