Love and Music University

from noquarterusa.net

from noquarterusa.net

by Jen Owens

“I don’t know what you did to the coffee, but it’s cold.” I didn’t know her name, as she hadn’t introduced herself, but it was only 7:30 this Saturday morning, and I wasn’t feeling as chipper as I might. My youngest brother David and I bustled around the small kitchen near our parish’s youth ministry office, another pot of coffee already on as we started heating up water for hot chocolate for the kids. I tried to meet her halfway, thanking her for letting us know and telling her that another, hopefully warmer pot should be on its way out in a bit. We sliced muffins and arranged them on platters and took them outside, where it was threatening to rain.

I’ve been back in my hometown for almost two months now, and I’m adjusting to life across the street from the parish that my three siblings and I grew up in. I had forgotten that the working poor don’t always fit the mold that I expect them to. Folks like the woman who greeted me with the news about the coffee this morning aren’t always interested in what’s going on on my end, and maybe they don’t have to be. But I was tired this particular Saturday morning. My family had gathered to mourn the loss of a dear, dear friend last night, and I wasn’t prepared for the greeting I was met with when my coffee-seeking friend had entered the office.

Maybe the lesson for me to learn is that people are dealing with loss all the time, so maybe it’s understandable that hot coffee becomes increasingly important. When everything else spins out of control, it can be a comfort to know that you can count on the little things.

When I got home this morning, I was remembering the music that we had sung at Chela’s memorial service the night before. As I sang, I tried to avert my eyes from the front pew in which her family was seated. Seeing her granddaughter nestle her head against Chela’s daughter’s side was too much. So I sought refuge in the words we sang together. Here I am, standing right beside you. Here I am, do not be afraid. Here I am, waiting like a lover. I am here, here I am. In a time when it seemed like God was so very absent, Divine Presence permeated the very air we breathed.

Several years ago, I remember a homeless man approaching me at an anti-death penalty vigil at the circle in Orange. I had been wearing my college sweatshirt, and he asked me if the LMU stood for Love and Music University. I don’t remember much of the conversation that followed, but I feel like that description is fitting for my experience of church over the past several weeks. The church in which I grew up has been a place where our community works out how to love each other, with all our rough edges, and it was this community that taught me how to sing.

Jen Owens is relishing her summer job as a substitute cantor. The lyrics above were written by Tom Booth.

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One Response

  1. […] going, there’s still room,” said Patience. Some of you may remember Patience from a previous post. Instead of expressing her concerns over cold coffee, she was encouraging me to continue pouring […]

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