Friday, November 11, 2011
I was in sixth grade.
Our Baptist church in Auburn was led by a working doctor. This man we would respect and admire, as instructed by our dad. The doctor pastor had a wisdom beyond any wisdom that we would encounter in everyday life. He was a leader, and a shepherd. Even as kids we knew it, and my dad reinforced it.
I didn’t know how he could work as a doctor during the week, and be a pastor on Sundays, but I guess he made it work. I thought a pastor just read the Bible all week. I always expected him to rush off from the pulpit to tend to a car accident in Newcastle, but that never happened.
I remember my dad saying our pastor was in his sixties, which was the same age as my grandpa. He didn’t look like my grandpa, and he seemed funny sometimes, which just made him more powerful.
For the first time I remember having a significant and real hope that we just might stick around for a while in this town, and possibly because of this church. This hope hadn’t been part of my life since I could remember.
We got committed.
Our family stayed after the Sunday service for extra activities, even if extra activities just meant bullshittin’ in the foyer for 20 minutes. This was new. We borrowed books from the one-room Christian library. My mom and dad committed themselves to getting to know people in the congregation, and pushed us to hang with some of the kids. We even had conversations about them on the way home.
Up to that point, my family never knew people at church, we just knew about them.
The doctor pastor was firm, direct, and broke into reliefs of common language at crucial points of each sermon, letting you know - he’s just a person too, and look, you really should not zone out during such an intelligent sermon. I was coming of age, and I prided myself in being able to finally hold my focus for large parts of sermons now.
I remember the doctor pastor’s sermons were the first to actually interest me. They struck a new, adult, chord in my being that led me to gently place him on one of very few pedestals I would hold as a growing young man.
I believe tonight was our first time going to night church. It was important. Just this time. Something was up. The pastor could not wait until Sunday, nor could he address the entire congregation. This special Wednesday night service was for the true members. The believers. My sisters and I were excited to be going out this late.
It was weird seeing the lights on, and the windows black by night, showing only the pulsing and blurred glowing of the cars passing on the narrow road out front.
“I’m going to show you a video, to start things off, then I’d like to say something,” said the doctor pastor.
It was just my two sisters, my dad, and me sitting at the empty pew, with a dozen other faithful congregants.
A large TV was already sitting on a metal rolling rack where the pastor usually spoke as he hit play on the VCR, after leaning in to make sure he was pushing the right button, looking up at the screen, then the VCR, then the screen, until the static turned into solid black, and he slowly stepped back, while eyeing the screen, and sat down once he trusted it was running.
The video was a half-baked Christian documentary on aliens and UFO’s, during which they digitally morphed ancient paintings of angels into aliens with teeth. It was the most frightening thing I had ever experienced. They talked about the nephalim in Genesis, how the angels of the sky mated with the daughters of man, and how Satan’s workers are alive and well in the present day folks that you and I deal with on the regular. They talked, with conviction, about the second coming - and how anyone - anyone - may be passively possessed by not only demons, but demons that are actually what we consider aliens. It convinced us that aliens are not only here, but could very well be dormant inside of us.
Everything you trusted to be safe and loving, turned into a window to hell.
My sisters hid their eyes in shock but my dad hissed us into paying attention.
The doctor pastor calmly crept up to the TV once the credits rolled, pushed the eject button and paused before he started his rare, sullen, evening sermon.
Our doctor pastor then let us devoted few know, somberly and with incredibly honest and utterly unforgettable detail, about his multiple experiences with alien abduction.
My sisters and I will never forget that night at church.