Church of the Latter Day Sane

Church of the Latter Day Sane

WO Church of Latter Day Sane Art

By Krista Genevieve Farris

It’s just an old white stucco-covered house on North Loudoun Street, greying and overcrowded. There’s no lawn, just an endless pad of cement from street to a cinderblock porch that’s been painted forest green. I see it every day.That’s my view.

The paint can’t mask the drab. It makes me mad.

When our crepe myrtles bloom, purple blossoms dress the view. And I have to position myself just right to see that ugly porch with the mismatched chairs and random residents chewing their nails and nodding to no one.

In spring, the buds bulge.

I peek my head outside to get the mail. It’s always ads and bank statements
these days—nothing personal. And a man in an alb and a tasseled cincture genuflects, kneels down on that hard porch.

Blesses me—

Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Raises a chalice,

a real churchy chalice.

I duck my head and hold-up two fingers “Peace” then double-lock my door.


Summer comes, a hazy blur obscured by ivies, humidity and pollution.  No glorious view of the Blue Ridge.  Just days spent on the porch with my son, his lemonade stand, biting insects and the dander of stray cats that makes me itch and sneeze and leaves me cranky.

The priest guy wants a cup of lemonade, opens our iron gate and hands my 6-year-old 10 bucks.

“Keep the change,” he suggests.

I think he can’t or shouldn’t spare the change.  I don’t want it.

“No,” I say.
My son takes it.

The man sits down.  Dry white flakes fall from the wicker and settle under the chair.  He rambles about God and grad school days and then talks incoherently about God some more.  He flits and drones and eventually leaves.

I tell my son there are too many mosquitoes on the porch the next time he wants to sell lemonade. We wait out the doldrums indoors.  I say I’m scared of West Nile and for some reason he believes me.


Thanksgiving – the leaves rain from the crepe myrtle and cushion our walk. The guy’s cleric robe is grey at the hem from his constant pacing on the treeless sidewalk across the street.  Back and forth and back again – barefoot- he sucks an endless cigarette smoking out one last stand of mosquitos.  He is bald.

Someone yells something indiscernible from a car window.

He screams, “Don’t fuckin’ talk about Jesus fucking Christ like that.”

I slide on the hem of my yoga pants while racing to my window to see.

A woman walking by on the sidewalk asks him

“You O.K.?”

His face is soft and pink.  He smiles a gentle closed-mouth smile,

“Why do you ask?”

He takes a drag off his cigarette nub.  Leaves it between his lips, clasps his hands behind his back, bows his head, turns away and paces.


I’m thankful.

I’m warm




Cigarette smoke hangs over that damn porch across the street like a funky cloud of incense by mid-December.  A barefoot woman with a buzz cut chain smokes in union with him.  I don’t care for her. I really don’t like her being there adding to the haze.

Each Tuesday afternoon at two, after his social worker leaves and the Christian radio station stops preaching on his old boom box and starts playing music, he starts mass.

Every Tuesday he rises from his chair, takes his chalice and walks a few steps away from the porch.  Then he walks back, sits down and lights two cigarettes.  He hands one to the woman.  The two of them sit and smoke- inhaling and exhaling- synchronized for a couple of hours. This goes on for days – this ritual.

Then, she starts rising with him and holds a cup through each mass, following behind him.  She kneels in front of him at the porch and offers the cup.

She trades her jeans for a long dress and the processional lengthens.  Her buzz cut hair is now completely shorn. She’s bald like him.

They cross the street toward me.

I wonder if they can feel my eyes through the window pane.

My son asks me what I’m doing. I say I’m just drinking a cup of tea and tell him to go color in a book.

The next week they come even closer to my home during their processional. They cross the street to the sidewalk right in front of my house, then veer north until they land on the porch of the abandoned house next door to mine. They turn east, kneel together to pray.

I’m a little pissed by the audacity- the trespass.

I’m sure they feel me.  I’ve been staring too long, frozen in my turret window.

I shouldn’t or should look away? I look down.

I see the frayed hem on his robe.  I feel dirty.

My husband asks me what I did today.

Nothing, I say, nothing. Why can’t I say?


It’s a New Year, the beginning of the end of the end of the beginning, and he’s wearing black pants and a black leather jacket and she’s wearing a sweater and a short skirt, her hair is growing, and they’re walking arm-in-arm on the south end of town.   I’m in my minivan waiting for them to move it along at a crosswalk- no chalice at that cross. “Move,  fucking move,” I mutter.

“What Mommy?” says a little voice behind me.

Oh God, did I say that out loud?


Leap day he sits beside her empty chair.

The plastic seat cracked in the cold.

He’s in jeans

robeless, shoeless, sockless, shirtless


He looks toward my house.

I know he sees me

he feels me

sitting at the windows.


A crisp draft breathes at me from under a sill.

Snow dusts the tops of his feet.  He rises,

walks past my house

finally out of my sight.


When I go to meet my son at his bus stop, a neighbor asks if I know anything about a guy dressed like a priest. I shrug. She says the man paused to pace at this school bus stop at the corner of West Avenue and “what’s up with these creeps anyway? Has the whole world lost its mind?”  So she called the police, who followed his footprints down the sidewalk to our alley, into a snow-covered shed.


The man sat in the corner

with some feral cats and

rose peacefully when

they said “come.”

The silence he left is mine

to hear, the empty porch,

my desolation –

his footprints – an order

to witness this gentrification

I think- if it has a pretty,

rational name,  I will be safe from

this purgatory, predatory,

paranoid neighborhood watch.


Krista Genevieve Farris likes the liminality offered by a prolonged sit at a window.  She lives in the Shenandoah Valley with her husband and three sons. Krista has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Social Change from Indiana University and a BA in English and Anthropology from Albion College. Her recent writing can be found on the Brain,Mother blog, Gravel, Literary Mama, Cactus Heart, The Rain, Party and Disaster Society, The Literary Bohemian, The Screech Owl and elsewhere. Please visit her writer’s website –


Why I Take My Children to Church

Why I Take My Children to Church

By Lyz Lenz

Praying 2On Sunday morning, I find myself facing off with my toddler. She is dressed in a hand-me down Easter dress, sparkly shoes and a plastic tiara. Her face is covered with the chocolate and sprinkles that comprised her breakfast. I don’t even have time to wipe her face, we’re already late for church. She is screaming because she doesn’t want her coat to make her dress “smushy.” My voice is tense. The baby is in his car seat crying for his pacifier. My husband is in the car. I just want her to put on a coat so we can go to church learn about the love of God. But I’m already swearing under my breath.

Sometimes I wonder why we wake up early every Sunday morning, wrangle two unwilling children into outfits that they hate, force them to eat breakfast and then haul them out the door, only to then force them to be quiet in uncomfortable chairs while we listen to words they don’t understand. Church inevitably overlaps with naptime, so we have to rush out with a crying baby and a toddler who doesn’t want to leave. And some weeks, I’m more than just frustrated with the routine; I’m frustrated with the politics of church, the power structure and false hierarchies. I get tired of the implicit acceptance of women as less—a belief that still persists, only now we use coded words and phrases like “helper” and “partner” and “letting men be leaders.” I hate that church seems to be the only place in my life where people talk with distain about giving gays the right to marry in one moment then sing about the love of God in the next.

Why do we take our children to church when so many of our peers are fleeing? According to a Pew Study, an increasing number of Millennials are skipping church and religious institutions. And not because they don’t have faith: a whopping 73% of Americans still consider themselves religious. Millennials eschewing church is often equated with a lack of faith, but I think it means something more. I think it means a dissatisfaction with a church, a religion that often forces people to choose between God and intellect, science and belief, love and righteousness. This is not the legacy I want to leave my children.

I grew up Fundamentalist, one of a quiver full of children, my parents took us to church three times a week. I remember as a 10-year-old, asking a pastor at a church potluck, “If God is light, then is the absence of God darkness?” He patted my head and answered me with a mouthful of brisket. “Don’t worry about it honey. God already answered all your questions. Just stop asking.”

When I escaped to college, I stopped going to church, I considered myself agnostic. Then, after I got married, I found myself still looking for something else, still believing in that omnipresent “other.” So, my husband and I began church shopping. We struggled to find a place where we could belong. We left one church after the pastor railed against “The Da Vinci Code” from the pulpit, holding it up as evidence of a depraved and fallen culture. My husband and I went and saw the movie the following week. We left another church after having a woman scream at me over whether I should or should not sew aprons for the people who worked in the coffee bar. And then, there was the church that sent elders to our house. And when I didn’t let them inside, they prayer walked around our apartment for twenty minutes.

Three years ago, frustrated and disillusioned, my husband and I, along with some friends, started our own church. Our hope was to create something new, something relevant, and something that used faith to reach out to the people around us. Although the majority were Evangelical, we didn’t want to be affiliated with a denomination, we didn’t want their baggage, their oversight or their rules. This church, we hoped, would be a home, it would be a community.  A place where questions would be welcome, along with crying babies and overwrought hearts.

Yet, like all utopias and new worlds, our experiment has fallen short of our goals. We’ve had low attendance, infighting, and a leader who was a serial cheater. But we’ve also had moments of transcendence—we’ve provided meals for people who are sick, in the hospital and grieving, we built a roof for members who couldn’t afford a new one. And it’s a place where my children are loved and cherished. People love to hold my baby while I drink coffee and sneak my three-year-old donuts. There is something about a community that is built around a common search for spirituality that has the ability to eschew the superficial and directly embrace the heart. It’s dysfunctional, problematic, and—for all the good and all the bad, our church has become a family.

We recently met to decide the fate of our endeavor. Would we renew the lease and continue? Or end the lease and move on? Exhausted, I wanted to leave. I’ve seen little of churches to recommend them to me. I’ve seen little of Christianity that I like.  I wanted to walk away. I couldn’t answer why I would make my children come with me to a place so flawed and broken in its search for truth.

We decided to keep our church’s doors open. Not because of what we’ve done so well, but because of what we want to do better. Through our excruciating meetings where we decided the fate of our church, I was reminded, why every Sunday I struggle to put tights on my daughter and fight against the current of the baby’s naptime while trying to listen to the sermon. Not because we are doing everything right, or because we have all the answers, but because I’m still seeking.

In Vivian Gornick’s memoir Fierce Attachments she makes a pointed observation about an old family friend, who became a rabbi: “He’s looking for a way to put his life together, and he’s got no equipment with which to do it. So he turned religious. It’s a mark of how lost he is, not how found he is…” I believe the same thing about myself. I don’t go to church because I am found, but because how profoundly lost I am. It’s a place where I bring my questions, where I bring my doubt, my uncertainty, and where I struggle with morality and purpose.

So, some days I don’t know why I take my children to church—force of habit, tradition, the fact that my husband is the treasurer? Sometimes I don’t go. I keep everyone at home and we eat donuts and nap, and commune with one another. But other days, I do know, I know that we are going not for the lessons that I hope they learn, but for the questions I hope they will one day learn to ask.

Lyz Lenz is a mother of two, writer, and lover of crime shows. Her writing has been published in the New York Time’s Motherlode, The Toast, The Hairpin, the Huffington Post and on her own site

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