There was the guy who arrived late and left early who would sit in the back corner pew and weep throughout the service. We never found out who he was because he avoided being greeted by an usher. He looked very sick and after a few weeks he stopped attending.
There was the self-identified “born again atheist” who wiped away tears during an infant baptism. There have been couples exchanging wedding vows to whom I whispered, “It’s okay. Take a deep breath.” There was the older gentleman who never sang the hymns because they made him cry. His wife had been a leader in the choir before she died.
Church is an excellent place to weep with or without holding someone’s hand, and God knows there are plenty of things to cry about these days and every day.
Just as we need spaces for public singing in the 21st Century – birthday parties, sporting events, and church are the only ones I can think of – we need space for having a good cry, preferably with people who won’t shame us, blame us, or “at least” us.
On the Sunday before Christmas a couple weeks ago, I sat in a church pew and wished that everybody could have been there. It was the morning after “the longest night” and HH’s church offered a time for healing and wholeness after the sermon. People were invited to come forward one by one for either a blessing or a prayer or an anointing with oil – or all those things – with one of the pastors. They could kneel, stand, or sit. HH rightly would never share what members of the congregation whispered in his ear, but I can guess. Some of us need to make a confession. Some of us need to ask for help. Some of us need to say to another human being that we feel utterly broken. Some of us need to acknowledge that we are profoundly grateful.
To share these deep expressions with another human being is something that doesn’t happen nearly enough.
To watch it happen in living color made me weep. And I wasn’t the only one.
We in the Church hear all the time about how institutional Christianity is dying. But as long as the world is a hot mess, as long as people need community, as long as we can offer space for our deepest spiritual needs, there will be Church.
We can be this Church in 2020. In fact, we won’t thrive as the Church in 2020 without authentic community.
Mosaic of my HH during a Service of Healing and Wholeness in December 2019. Happy Epiphany. We all have gifts to share.