Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Invitation

It is a ritual I remember well
from those bad old Baptist days…
The pastor is wrung dry
from bearing his heart to the people.
And now he stands, head bowed
while we sing all six verses – twice:
“Just as I am, without one plea
but that thy blood was shed for me…”

When I was young, there was
in that place of confession.
That walk up the aisle.
That cleansing.
Sins exhaled to a waiting ear.

Today I wonder what
I would confess if
I were to take that walk
toward the praying man.

Perhaps that the dress I’m wearing
costs more than my weekly pledge.

Or maybe, that this narrow place
feels seductively safe
but is no longer my home.


  1. After the altar call --- the pastor moves toward the front door as he nominates a church member to say a dismissal prayer as he greets us at the door, we all file out and say our Sunday goodbyes...

  2. I go to an Episcopal church now & that's how it is there - the rector is at the back of the church greeting everyone (we do the passing of the peace then).

  3. Welcome back home!

    I like your thin humor in the terms you use to describe the pastor,the place, and the cost of the dress. I am in favor of going to the places of faith: be it church, synagogue, or mosque- whenever one can and wishes to do so.

  4. Duta - I use the thin humor to keep from throwing my hymnal at the paster! Just kidding, but it's hard for me to keep my mouth shut sometimes...

  5. Whoa, blast from my past - unexpected. I think you know my dad was a Baptist minister. So it was all this in spades, at home and at church. I've written a poem about a woman going forward for the altar call, week after week, and wondering what she had to confess. She also came to our home and confessed.

    My sister tells me now it was that she was gay. Sad, no?

  6. It's definitely hard to be gay in the Baptist world where I grew up. My cousin attends a church in my hometown that was torn apart because a gay couple started attending services. I believe that people literally thought it would "rub off on" their children...

  7. I was in hospital in Croydon when I was about 7. The ward sister asked me my religion: Church of England I said.

    What church do you attend? she asked.

    West Croydon Methodist church I said.

    Couldn't understand why she laughed out so loud.

  8. I was raised in a Preachin' and Shoutin' fire and brimstone Southern Baptist church. This is a wonderful poem and captures what it feels like, that moment of seductive invitation in a church service. While I am no longer an active church goer because of various reasons I can appreciate that moment of true self abandonment.

  9. Oh, dear, how well I remember the thirty minute alter call. After two rounds of "Just As I Am", then two rounds of "I Surrender All", I was ready to get the heck out of Dodge. Please don't start into "Is Your All On the Alter".

    It's as if the preacher's performance was judged on how many would venture down that aisle.


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