Canadian Authors–Victoria 2017 Flash Creative Nonfiction Contest First Prize

Lord, Lift Me Higher by Robert Harvey (Victoria)

Sunday Street Church. They come in from the rain, wearing thin jackets and runners. Most shuffle to a seat near me at the back, sniffing and coughing, shoulders softening. They’ve come for shelter, for somewhere to go, for coffee and donuts.

The band starts on “To God Be The Glory”. Voices well up in front and hands rise in the air: women in pantsuits, husbands with slicked back hair. I get a lump in my throat; I knew I would. My row, we’re croaking in the key of G-why-is-there-so-much-pain-in-my-life? Soon my pockets are weighted with clumped Kleenex.

Hymn lyrics scroll on a screen in the corner. The volunteer falls behind, then lurches ahead a verse. The singers keep singing and smiling; they know the words by heart.

A young preacher strides in and springs onto the stage, dragging a stepladder. He climbs to the top, rocking it back and forth, warning that if you act too high and mighty, you have a long way down to fall. It’s much better for you to stay on your knees praying.

I want to argue: look around, aren’t we low enough already?

But I forgive him when he’s kind to a woman who interrupts, who’s talking to herself, and who wants us to pray for her. She scuttles from one empty chair to another, and then another, like the seats are on fire.

We pray. Here everyone is forgiven.

 

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