Sunday Morning Running Late in Orange County


It is important that I preface this story with the fact that I was born and raised a Christian. My father was a Methodist minister. I was brought up with a Christian value set that I continue to use as my guide through life. Over the years, I evolved into a CEO type (Christmas/Easter Only).

The woman whom I was dating, Maria, a devout Christian, asked if we could attend Easter services together. I said, “Sure, let’s do it.” Easter Sunday morning arrived. As the guy, I take things upon myself to plan out dates. This situation was different in that it was her request. I made a mistake in assuming that she was going to pick the house of worship, and she thought I was going pick one out. Once we discovered this, a quick run to the computer was in order for some Google help in improvising. It was late in the morning, and our choices were limited. I quickly found a church a few miles away that, if we left right then, we would get there a few minutes late.

We scrambled to the car, and off we went. Making good time, I pulled into the parking lot about five minutes late. I noticed there were others who were also arriving late. Breathing a sigh of relief, I concluded the best course of action was to follow them and blend in.

We were immediately greeted by an usher as we entered the narthex. He welcomed us and asked if this was our first time here. I said, “Yes, it is.” He said, “Great! Let’s get you seated.”

As we followed him into the sanctuary, the first thing that dawned on me was that somebody needed to take a look at the sound system. As an engineer with years of live sound experience, I can quickly identify areas of a room where sound reflections arrive at different times, causing a swamping effect that makes it difficult to understand speech. This continued for a few moments before I realized the usher was taking us to the front.

Sheer panic set in. We were late and being brought in down the aisle!  Stopping at the second pew from the front, the usher led us down to the very middle. It was probably one of the most optimal seating locations in the church. In front of us was seated the children’s choir.

It took a few moments for the shock to wear off. At least we’re not in the very front row, I thought. It was then that I realized I could easily hear what was going on now.

We settled in. We were not there for more than a few moments when another usher came up to us and handed us each a listening device, saying, “Here are your translators.” Translators? I looked around and didn’t immediately see anyone else with one. The guy must have thought we were hard of hearing.

The service moved forward with music, lots of it. They had a quality sound system, so I began to wonder why it sounded so swampy when we walked in. We must have been there for 30 minutes before the children’s choir was called up. When they finished, they were led out of the sanctuary—leaving us now as the front row… Yikes!

The service continued with more music. The youth band was now on.  I was marveling at how well the plexiglass drumset shield was keeping the acoustic drum volume in check. This is when I began to realize I could not understand what the youth band was singing about. With the drumset in an isolated plexiglass enclosure, it should have been easy to hear what they were singing. All during this time, Maria kept giving me funny looks, as she was somewhat confused also.

I estimated the music to go on for an hour. I was thinking the whole service was going to be music, which was pretty cool. As I looked around the church, I noticed we were indeed a unique couple. Maria is originally from Mexico. She was the only Hispanic woman in the church, and the sanctuary was at capacity.

The service changed pace with prayer, some introductions, and then the sermon. I could not understand a word the pastor was saying. Neither could Maria. I began to study the service guide we were provided, combined with some of the details projected on the wall for parishioners to follow. It was then I realized parts of the service were being conducted in Romanian.

Now things were beginning to make sense. We were able to listen to what the pastor was saying through the translators. The service lasted about an hour and 45 minutes. The church had been founded as a Romanian Christian church where they maintained traditions like their native language in services.

Upon exiting after the service, the congregation made us feel very welcome and invited us back. I commend them for giving us one of the best places to sit for the service. It was refreshing to see the level of youth involvement at the service.

This was one of the most memorable church services I’ve ever attended, and I still laugh about Maria and I trying to figure out what was going on half the time during the service.

– Paul Nelson


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