That was a curious sight at Grace Cathedral bright-and-early this Sunday morning.
Church-goers turned out in their best finery an hour-or-so before the service was to commence to secure a seat in the grand house of worship on Nob Hill.
Why, pray tell?
As I noted in a post last week, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was slated to paticipate in a Mass at Grace to celebrate - "Last Sunday After the Epiphany" - as the Holy season of Easter commenced.
As solemn parishioners scurried inside the awesome environs for coveted seats, I couldn't help but notice (with a little disappointment, I might add) that a few pews at the front of the Cathedral were roped off and reserved for special guests attending the much-anticipated event.
We're all equal in the eyes of God, after all, and no one is entitled to pull strings - at the expense of another - to nab a special perch (at least not in the Lord's sacred place of prayer).
Personally, I feel that if the faithful want to get an up-close-and-personal gander at someone like the Archbishop, that they should arrive early like the rest of the common folk to guarantee their cushy spot.
Don't 'ya think?
I was surprised that this wasn't at-all obvious to the powers-on-high - the most pious - who run Grace!
If any of the Grace regulars (or tourists) were miffed, however, they weren't inclined to express their feelings (not outwardly, at least).
Once inside the impressive carved doors, the faithful throngs - lookie loos, too - snapped up all the available seats willy-nilly (as the Choir rehearsed gloriously in the background out-of-sight at the front of the Cathedral and the organist struck up a riveting note or two).
By the time the service began at 11 o'clock, there was standing room only, by golly!
The Mass amounted to a lot of high drama, and pomp and circumstance, performed with a lot of calculated ritual.
I joked to one bloke about the rousing hymns being banged out melodramatically (and with great fervor) by an overzealous organist.
"So - "Phantom of the Opera" - eh?"
"Dark," he gleefully quipped, as we both broke into a little chuckle (which signalled we were both on the same wavelength (and of like mind and spirit).
Surely, I don't have to remind anyone, that the devout are capable of communing with God in the calm serenity of their home or in natural surroundings at the local park.
And, always be mindful that God frowns upon those who make a show of their prayers in public!
Just before the service commenced, I asked a fellow next to me to pass over an envelope for my offering, from a raft of papers in a cubby-hole just opposite his seat.
But, as it turned out, the pews were only stocked with a few Hymn books and Informational cards to fill in for the express purpose of requesting a newsletter and/or details on programs and services at the respected Church.
"They probably want you to fill the card in," he whispered.
So, I complied with his suggestion, right off-the-bat.
When the collection plate was handed to me, I plopped the card and my donation inside, with little ado.
A few short minutes later after the "spoils" were emptied into a larger basket - and paraded down the center aisle - I caught sight of my request card a-top a mound of cash as it floated by a few feet away in a young priest's hands.
"What a good omen," I thought to myself.
At this juncture, the Archbishop took the occasion to offer up a chat on the meaning of "Transfiguration".
The well-received - diminutive man-of-the-cloth - spiced up his sermon with a handful of humorous quips which appealed to the congregation.
A bit of levity goes a long way, after all.
"If you're walking down the street, give the sign of the cross to a passer-by," he urged.
"Inside, quietly. So you don't get clobbered."
The parishioners roared!
"And, when you're stuck in traffic, bless all the drivers around you."
At the end of his inspiring sermon, the mesmerized crowd jumped to their feet, and gave the beaming speaker a rousing standing ovation!
"I thought you retired," the Reverend quipped, in the aftermath.
In response, a ripple of laughter trickled through the pews.
"Well, you're welcome to visit us at Grace, anytime."
A few moments later - when the procession filed down the center aisle - I managed to reach out and shake the Archbishop's hand.
"God Bless you."
He responded in kind.
After the service, volunteers at Grace offered up delicious pancakes, mouth-watering fruit, and strong jolts of coffee in paper cups.
The room was electric and the spirits were high.
On that note, I departed, with a bounce in my step.
Then, guess what?
On the sidewalk below, I spied $10.00, waiting to be snatched up.
God moves in mysterious ways.
Grand environs of Grace Cathedral awesome!