‘I can’t take you anywhere’

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to work at a radio station not far from my Pennsylvania home, where I anchored the weekend news.

That was a big job for someone so young, something I didn’t appreciate until I was older. But it sure got me a lot of attention — especially from my church, a small rural Methodist congregation that would get me up at the pulpit regularly to read Bible passages.

Christmas time in the Hinman household back in 1979 included … power tools?

Christmas time in the Hinman household back in 1979 included … power tools?

My hometown was primarily Roman Catholic, so one of the big events of the year, obviously, was Christmas Eve Mass.

At the same time, I thought there was something special about conducting a service entirely by candlelight, like my church did for the holiday season.

I really wanted to share the candlelight service with one of my good Catholic friends. And she was all for it — as long as I, in turn, accompanied her to Mass.

I think my friend was surprised by the simplicity of the service at my church, and enjoyed what was a very intimate, yet moving celebration of Christmas.

Later on, we took our seats in the large sanctuary that was Holy Rosary Church in the heart of downtown. It was packed with people, as if Bruce Springsteen himself was going to come out and deliver a homily.

Once the priest arrived at the altar, he started talking. I’m sure what he was saying was profound, but what really got my attention is that behind me from a balcony on the second story, a small choir started a low, dramatic hum.

The priest continued to talk, and he held out his hands, first at waist level, and then on a slow rise up. As his hands ascended higher and higher, so did the crescendo of the choir behind us.

Suddenly, the priest’s hands shot straight up into the air, and the choir was in full majestic sound. At the same time, all the holiday lighting came to life around the beautifully adorned sanctuary, and it was as if a small slice of heaven had enveloped the room.

I was shocked and I was awed. I was overwhelmed by the sound, the light, the energy.

Before I knew it, I was up on my feet, clapping and cheering — completely in the moment, even as the choir finished its long note.

It might have been only a few seconds, but to me it felt like an eternity. I stopped clapping, and looked around. It was only then I realized I was the only one applauding, the only one standing.

All eyes were upon me.

I quietly sat back down, and the service resumed. I was so afraid that my friend would be irritated by my behavior. But as the priest starting speaking again, she leaned over and said, with a mock, angry look, “I can’t take you anywhere.”

Michael Hinman is the news editor of The Laker/Lutz News, joining the staff in 2013. Besides focusing his coverage on local government and development, he’s also responsible for planning every issue of the paper.

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