Against my will, I bought bread. And milk. And eggs and fruit and frozen pizza, knowing that purchasing perishables was foolish. I doubted my kids would eat the soup I purchased, unless things got really bad. But they never do, I told myself, recalling the 13 hours it took to evacuate to San Antonio during Rita despite zero rain. I grabbed the orphaned water bottles (the expensive Alkaline-rich kind) and fought with the self-checkout line at Kroger. This was Thursday morning.
Friday morning, no rain.
Saturday morning, merely overcast. I fall for the hype every time, I thought, as I went about my day dodging light rain, then harder rain, then pounding rain. I read the email from St. John the Divine about the church doors opening the following morning, not realizing that Clay was spending the night there to make that happen. I mentioned to the kids (who did not want the soup) that I would go.
The dark night hours submitted to what would be the largest flooding event in U.S. history. Despite living one mile from Buffalo Bayou, my home remained dry and I easily navigated empty streets and blinking lights to arrive at the 9 am service, greeted by two gentlemen with bulletins printed much earlier in the week, when perhaps I was not the only one questioning Harvey’s character. There was no air conditioning, so the six of us fanned ourselves with the bulletins as Clay welcomed those watching on the Internet and led our choral introit to a song I didn’t know and, therefore, mutilated.
The service proceeded as normal, but this Sunday I was especially grateful to be in the pews. I didn’t know the devastation to come, but I knew I wanted to be at church. While watching online was a convenient option, I felt drawn to the physical structure and people whom I would not know (being relatively new to the church) but with whom I wanted to worship. I felt such gratitude that I could make the drive safely, such resonance sitting there. And then, when I approached for communion, I knelt on this:
As the Rev. Louise Samuelson preached the week before, the nave of the church, where we sit each Sunday, is named for the Latin word “navis”, or navy, because Romans recognized this area with vaulted ceilings as an upside down ship. I had no way of knowing how fellow Houstonians would form a citizen flotilla to rescue thousands from toxic and devastating flood waters in the days ahead, but I knew I needed to be in church that day to meet the One with power to calm the waves and/or fear amidst them. And at the same time I begrudgingly bought supplies at Kroger the week before, the bulletin/fans were being printed with a Spirit-inspired closing hymn that would send our curtailed congregation back out into the teeth of the storm:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
Carrie Pillsbury - parishioner of St. John the Divine