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The New Geography of Worship — The Messenger

March 4, 2024

Gabi Lazarro writes about her journey to Catonsville Presbyterian Church – a journey that leads her to worship every week despite hundreds of miles between her and the church building.

Hello to you, and thank you for taking the time to read this. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gabi. I grew up in a modest, blue collar town in New Jersey, in an average home, and for the most part, was not really raised in any specific church as a small child. My family consisted of non-practicing Christians. My grandmother was Russian Orthodox. My grandfather was Roman Catholic. My mother was Lutheran and my father, Episcopalian.

By chance, directly behind our backyard was a very small Methodist church. On Sunday mornings, I would hear the congregation singing their hymns. One day in the mid 1970’s, my next door neighbors asked my parents if they could bring my brother and me with them and their daughter to church, and that was all she wrote…

It started with an hour of Sunday school, followed by an hour of church services. We had VBS for a week in the summer. There were only a few families that attended services each week. We were lucky to have two dozen attendees at a regular service. But, the sense of community was so incredibly welcoming. Eventually, as I grew older there was youth group and Confirmation as well. I found Jesus Christ and accepted him as my Lord when I was 9 years old. I’ll never forget that moment. I literally cried with joy when I realized what I had found. It was an epiphany of sorts, and I thank God for that moment every day. I still recall the amazing feeling I would have when I would leave church on Sunday mornings. I think it was the benediction that started “it.” Having that charge to start a new week, perhaps? I wish I could find the right word. Euphoria? Rejuvenation? Renewal? Perhaps, for me, I just felt like, “All was right with the world.”

When I was 16, I got my first “real” job at the Lincoln Theatre. It was the local movie theater in town. My manager was the Rev. Dr. Ken Kovacs. (Well, he was just “Ken” at the time.) We formed a bond that has lasted to this day (coming up on forty years now – Wow, Ken, we’re OLD.) I remember when he had office space in his local Presbyterian church in the next town over. On occasion, I’d join him over a cup of tea and we’d have these deep, philosophical, religious, and somewhat existential conversations. Memories that I cherish to this day.

Fast forward: Eventually, I got busy with life. I got married, had a child, and was self-employed for many years. My work schedule included Sundays, so, church fell by the wayside. My thought was that one day I’d attend again. My faith didn’t lapse. My relationship with God was still there, but I did not worship in the traditional sense. Life went on, and God was still there, but perhaps not as regularly as I was accustomed to.

Then I began a new chapter of my life. I eventually moved on but several years ago, I knew something was missing in my life. I prayed every day. I had my regular conversations with God, and life was good. But I was looking for something else. I needed the “glue” to put some pieces back together again.

Ken and I had gotten to a point in our lives that our contact was sporadic. I was in New Jersey and he was in Maryland, after all. On a handful of occasions, I would be in the Baltimore area, and Catonsville Presbyterian was always on the agenda. I have attended a few services in person and always felt so welcomed. But one day a few years ago, I remembered that I can attend worship via Facebook.

I needed that feeling back. The one I’d get when church let out on Sunday mornings. And yet, call it a reason or an excuse, I could not get up the nerve to walk into some random church alone and hope to eventually fit in. The thought of “church hopping” until I found the right fit did not appeal to me. But I needed to worship with others.

So, Facebook it was. And it is one of the best decisions I’ve made to date. It’s a larger version of the worship that I grew up with. However, it feels like home: the hymns, the organ and piano, the reading of scripture, the relatable sermons, and Communion (although I will admit that it took a bit getting used to “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” rather than “give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses”). And then there is the benediction. Oh, the benediction! It is by far my favorite part. For me, it’s the best way to go out into the world and begin my week.

I needed the “glue” to put some pieces back together again… Then, one day a few years ago, I remembered that I can attend worship via Facebook.

I appreciate the sense of acceptance and inclusion that Catonsville Presbyterian offers. God taught us to love without exception and accepts us as we are. The very least we can do is to reach out and extend the same to others.

I still wake up each and every morning, making my coffee and sitting by a window, enjoying what I like to call “Coffee with my Lord” (I guess I could have called it “Java with Jesus”, but no, it’s “Coffee with my Lord”). I have a little chat, thanking God for his blessings, asking for guidance and saying my prayers so that I start each day on the right foot. Even still, I look forward to my Sunday mornings on Facebook with all of you, soaking in the joy of worship. I have attended online for years now, and have missed only a handful of services, mostly due to technical difficulties. But I’ve attended via cell phone while on vacation, and even a time or two from bed when I was under the weather. No matter what, I am there: if not in body, definitely in spirit.