In the minutes before the wedding ceremony, I wait downstairs in Pilgrim Hall with the groom and the groomsmen. Upstairs the sanctuary is lovely, with freshly vacuumed carpeting and wedding flowers that are a cut above the usual Sunday morning carnation extravaganza. But down where I wait with the men, it is the usual church fellowship hall, with its folding metal chairs, chipped Formica tables and years of cookie crumbs and juice ground into the rug.
“We used to run around this place like crazy,” the groom tells me, recalling his upbringing in the church. “We’d stay down here with our sleeping bags for youth fellowship lock-ins. But we’d run around all night, sliding on the rails, playing games. We never slept.”
Lillian Daniel is senior pastor at First Congregational Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a board member for Interfaith Worker Justice, and author of When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough (Jericho Books).