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Kierkegaard on a Church Visit

Brian Denker recently posted this quote from Kierkegaard and I thought it was a wonderful portrait of the church.  Here we have a pastor accomplishing his duties well, but even more a godly individual in the congregation making a powerful impact.

“The church itself attracted me greatly, the clergyman who I heard every Sunday was a right reverend personality, a unique figure, who knew how to bring out old and new from the experiences of an eventful life; he was perfectly in place in the pulpit. As a priest he satisfied completely my soul’s ideal demand, he satisfied it as a figure, satisfied it as an orator. I was glad every Sunday to think that I was to go to hear him.
But what increased my joy and made perfect for me the impression of divine worship in this church was another figure, an elderly woman, who likewise attended every Sunday. She used to come a little before the service began, and I likewise. Her personality was for me an image of the congregation, and thinking of her I forgot the disturbing impression of the parish clerk at the church door. She was a woman of a certain age, apparently about sixty years old, but was still beautiful, her features noble, her look full of a certain humble dignity, her countenance expressive of deep, pure, feminine character. She looked as if she had experienced much, not precisely stormy events, but as a mother who had borne life’s burdens and yet had preserved and attained the ability to rejoice over the world. So when I saw her coming far down the aisle, when the sexton had met her at the church door and now as a servant was deferentially escorting her to her seat, then I knew she would also pass the pew where I sat. So when she went by I always rose and bowed to her. For me there was so much implied in this bow, it was as though I would beg her to include me in her supplications. She entered her pew, giving a kindly greeting to the sexton, she remained an instant on her feet, she bowed her head, held a handkerchief an instant before her eyes as she prayed – it would take a pithy preacher to make so strong and salutary an impression as did the solemnity of that venerable woman.
It sometimes came into my mind that perhaps I, too, was included in her prayer, for to woman it belongs essentially to pray for others.”

Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Vol. II, tr. Walter Lowrie, rev. Howard A. Johnson (Princeton: Princeton U, 1974), pp. 318-9.

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