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Friday 17 September |

What happens if only one person shows up at church?

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Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 01/02/17

That happened to writer Egan Millard, who describes his experience attending an Episcopalian service with just himself and the minister:

 I was new to Portland and I’d only been to St. Luke’s, the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, once before – and that was for the busy, colorful morning service. I felt a pang of dismay as I hovered on the threshold, deciding whether to investigate further or just go home. Through the open door, I could smell the distinct fragrance that seems to emanate from every old church: incense, candles, flowers. I stepped inside. The wide, empty nave was dark except for the light coming in through the stained-glass windows. My footsteps had never sounded louder as I walked toward the little octagonal chapel at the back, where the Rev. Anne Fowler sat alone by the altar. “Oh,” she said. “I guess it’ll just be us tonight.” I was the only one who’d shown up for the 5:15 service. I would’ve understood if she’d apologized and said there weren’t enough people to justify holding the service. But instead, Anne said, “We’ll wait a few more minutes before we get started,” and then went to put on her vestments. I took a seat and looked up into the chapel’s spire. Every once in a while, some muffled fragment of a sound would surface briefly – a faint siren, rain on the roof – before dissolving. Candlelight brought a warm glow to the chapel’s wood-paneled walls, which fold into a partial dome over the altar. If you haven’t been to an evening event there, just imagine being cradled in a conch shell under a dark sea. In those minutes, my understanding of the word “sanctuary” deepened. I’d been to many small services before, like the nightly Mass at the Catholic college I went to, but I’d never been the only congregant. I wasn’t sure how it would work, but Anne was.

Read on to learn what happened—especially when it came time for the sermon.

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