A brick building topped by a tall, slender steeple, the First Presbyterian Church was a bastion of mainstream Ocala. In the mid-twentieth century, on Sundays the sanctuary would be crowded with people dressed in their best: the men in gray suits, white shirts with muted ties, their fedora hat resting on the pew next to them; and veil-hatted, gloved-handed women draped in subdued dresses.
On hot days, a large and noisy, attic fan would draw a warm breeze through open windows. Supplementing the artificial breeze, people would wave hand-held fans emblazoned with the name of a local funeral home. The preacher’s sermon, the warm air and the rhythmic noise of the fan induced a weariness insuring late-morning naps for children and more than a few parents.
The preacher’s hobby was translating scripture from the original Greek and his sermons reflected this scholarly nature. His monotone voice would drone on, until a loud snort from the church’s leading contributor signaled it was time to end. Immediately completing his remarks, the preacher would send the somnolent congregation on their way.
The long, intellectual sermons and the uninspiring music didn’t faze the comfortable, well-dressed congregants. Around town, they became known as the “Frozen Chosen.”
One Easter Sunday, my mother and I arrived at the church long before the beginning of the service. She was excited that the choir would be performing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus so, foregoing her usual pew, she found us seats at the front of the church. Seated next to us was a mentally challenged young man who had been “adopted” by the congregation.
With soaring music and the voices of angels, the choir’s rendition of Handel’s work was incredible. As the last note ended, the congregation was stunned and frozen; you could hear a pin drop. Suddenly, the childlike young man sitting next to us loudly exclaimed, “That was beautiful.”
Ignited by the impulsive sincerity of his statement, the congregation jumped to its feet, applauding, some crying out “hallelujah” and others “amen.” It was a special moment, when ignited by a special person, the “Chosen” became no longer “Frozen.”
Like the gray-suited congregation I grew up in, often we are the “Frozen Chosen.” Chosen because we enjoy so many blessings but frozen in our reluctance to express joy in them. Relationships are enhanced and atmospheres altered when with a childlike innocence we show joy and appreciation. Commenting on a blog I posted, Joyce Stover wrote, “Upon observation it can be proven that happiness increases exponentially when divided. Kind of like emotional fission.” I couldn’t say it any better.
“Where one is wise two are happy.” – Proverb