Architect: Attributed to Isaac Lucas
Location: 12 Oliver Street
I rush down Worth Street, expecting nothing. Every time I’ve come here it’s been quiet. I even assumed it was defunct. But cars out front are double-parked—a sign of real activity, a rarity. Of the Sunday services for downtown churches, only Trinity’s could be considered well-attended; turn-outs for the others were never commensurate with church prestige. And with those low numbers was a sense of…embarrassment? Futility?
The front door is blocked by a lady with her back towards me. Dressed all in white, I think she’s a nurse. Did it already start? No. She turns around, forgetful, and opens the door.
I come in apologetically. I am an outsider here, but I am always an outsider at these things. I come to churches, any and all of them, feeling fraudulent, a mere spectator, a voyeur, not a participant. The church is Baptist, and I was raised with Roman Catholicism, and my sympathies towards it remain, old and unweedable, ready to horrify unsuspecting boyfriends. And yet..and yet…the rituals of Catholic mass escape me. I can never cross myself right. I mumble the words, refuse communion—not because I don’t want the Church but because I sense the Church doesn’t want me. Also salient: I AM SHY. Like, I-would-rather-claw-the-skin-off-my-bones-than-talk-to-you-shy. It is a vast expenditure of mental energy to make eye contact with complete strangers. I take a seat in a pew all the way in the back, next to a column, hoping I’m ignored.
I’m not ignored. About midway through the three-hour-and-fifteen-minute service, the pastor (I think it was the pastor) asks if the church has any visitors today. I don’t say anything. And everybody turns their heads, as in a slow wave, towards me. A kid comes up to me with a microphone. Great. What is my church? I don’t have a church. Not something I want to admit in a church, much less in front of a score of believers, much less in a church in front of a score of believers. I have to repeat it again, louder, because mumbled it the first time.
Maybe half the church comes up and welcomes me. That crappy apologetic feeling I wear like a tattoo isn’t mutual. And that kinda makes it hurt worse.