Yesterday I was deeply moved by Worship and Sunday School at St. Giles.
My co-teacher and I had two students in Sunday School. Larger churches might have 25 children in Sunday School. Or thirty. Should I be disappointed? No way. Jack and Ian were great company as we unpacked what the “Lectio Divina” is. We explored the components of the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, et cetera. We took a field trip around our campus. I pointed out the buildings: the Taylor Education building, the fellowship hall/youth building, the preschool, the gym, and the sanctuary.
As we stood in the middle of the campus, I asked, “Where is the church?”
They stood silent for a moment, then pointed to the people making their way like sugar ants to honey from the parking lots and Sunday School classes to the open doors of the sanctuary. “They are the church,” Jack said. Ian nodded. “The people are the church, not the buildings.”
Ian and Jack rock!
The narthex (or lobby) outside the sanctuary, as always, was a hospitable hive of activity. Before worship, there are usually lots of hugs, a few high fives, and people catching up. Out of the corner of my eye I see visitors slip in. Typically, they cannot weave through that crowd without being greeted at least three times. I was too busy to say hello to many people because of pre-worship duties. It’s a sad commentary for your pastor to be “too busy” to say hello. I’m working on that.
I loved worship. Some folk don’t, for lots of reasons. I respect that. But I love it, general, and I loved it yesterday, particularly.
Juliane Taylor tried to do the time for children, but the children kept interrupting her story. And, of course, they got it right. They knew about as much about the shepherd David and his confrontation with the giant Goliath as Juliane did. It was a hoot.
The choir sang well, and Bridget Wilson lifted their song with her gorgeous violin playing. I remember some of the first times she played violin for us in worship. She was brave to play and we had to be brave to listen to a few of those first, awkward notes. Not anymore. She has a touch. As she played I caught the smiling glance of her mom, a communion of watery eyes. I closed my eyes and let the music take me to another place. When’s the last time you had a truly sublime moment?
I tried to preach, dropping the names of Pope Francis and his used Renault, an unnamed church member I met nine years ago in first class on Delta Airlines (he was in first class, I was stuck in the back near the toilet), and Tony Campolo (tonycampolo.org/). Then, I lead the affirmation of faith. It was powerful for me to hear our congregation reciting Jesus’ redemptive activity in the world. Then, I collected the prayer concerns that the congregation wrote down on the goldenrod slips of paper. Sometimes it is difficult for me to get through this part of the service of worship because I see the names and I read between the lines of the concerns: A young mother facing bone cancer, a 90th birthday, an 85th birthday, concerns for a son without a job, prayers for reconciliation, lamentation over cracked ribs and broken relationships, prayers for Syrian refugees and world leaders as they find ways to bring order from the political chaos of the Middle East. Trembling tears of sorrow, tears of joy, speaking our concerns, listening for God in the silence. We breathe in. We breathe out. Morning sun rushes in slants over new carpet. Is this what prayer looks like?
Bobby Dobson led us through the greeting which most of us know by heart: What does the Lord require of you? To seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. We shook hands and passed the peace. I pronounced the charge and benediction and I got the chance one more time to look into your eyes—all you movers and shakers in the world, loving your way through another week, one day at a time, miracle by miracle until we see each other again on Sunday.
And we do it all again.
The chorus of James Taylor’s song Bartender Blues says something about my ecclesiology. Read the lyrics. Our church community comprises a few of the weight-bearing walls of my life. You are the angels.
What we as a church are doing matters.
See you next Sunday—or before.
I need four walls around me to hold my life
To keep me from going a-stray
And a honky-tonk angel to hold me tight
To keep me from slipping away
I was born and raised in the sight of water in Hampton, Virginia. I was baptized and nurtured in the Presbyterian church. There was never a time when weekly worship attendance, the giving of ...