Two weeks ago on Sunday May 22, we docked in Gdynia, boarded our designated buses, then headed towards Gdansk, Poland. On the way into the city, we stopped at the Oliwa Cathedral, built in the late 14th century, just for a look and photo op.
After touring so many countries, visiting cathedrals and churches converted into museums, the sound of organ music and singing startled me, as I entered the church. This was a real church with real people singing, worshipping God, not gathering to look at art and architecture, sample history, or possibly lament what was, once upon a time.
The church was full, not of tourists but of practicing Catholics, as some say. We tourists, curious folks, hovered near the entrance. Some looking ill-at-ease like they’d stumbled off a bus and landed in Narnia.
Off to my left stood a college age student, backpack plopped at her feet. She, oblivious to onlookers, stood with eyes closed, head and hands raised, singing along with the congregation. Stunning scene. God in Gdansk.
From near the front, a strong tenor voice sang a verse, followed by the congregation’s prayerfully sung Ave Maria. I stood at the back, awed by a sense of Christ’s presence. Later they sang an alleluia, like we sing at Christ Church in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Felt like I’d just met more of the family.
One more treasure unearthed from travels beyond my safe place.
We need more welcome mats.
And maybe a teachable heart, willing to struggle to sing along, in another language, because we’re family.
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