Wednesday, September 02, 2015

In search of a church

"We are each other's holding bread." Photo by Susy Morris, Flickr

Earlier this year, the new pastor at my parish dissolved the music ministry group I was an active part of. For three years, there in the corner to the left of the altar, I had contributed to dynamic worship, befriended faith-filled musicians, and -- in answer to many tearful prayers said from that very spot -- met and fell in love with a wonderful man.

Yet with one executive decision, my roots in the parish were yanked out, replaced with an approach to liturgy that, while I don't disagree with, is not the sole way I want to serve and worship. I hoped for a congregational outcry, a change of heart from the pastor, but neither arrived. Within months the music group was officially dead. So, cut adrift with our wounds still raw, Nature Boy and I spent the summer searching for a church.

The process has been neither easy nor successful. Each weekend we bounce around from pew to pew -- weighing the quality of the liturgy, the impact of the preaching, and the spirit of the parish -- and each weekend we realize anew the depth of our loss. Change is always hard, but it's a particular slog when you feel so powerless throughout the process. And though we've experienced other moving services and witnessed other loving communities in action, none of them feel quite like the home we knew and loved.

One unexpected benefit of this unsettled period, however, is that it has given me a new appreciation for the doctrinal tenet that the Church -- the people of God -- are the body of Christ. Bodies have beating hearts. They are warm, lively, breathing, aching. They yearn to hold and be held, just as Nature Boy and I are yearning right now.

Anne Lamott put it poignantly in a recent Facebook post:

"I think often of the weeks after the end of WWII, in the refugee camps for orphans and dislocated kids. Of course the children couldn't sleep! But the grown-ups discovered that after you fed them, if you gave them each a piece of bread just to hold, they would drift off. It was holding bread. There was more to eat if they were still hungry. This was bread to hold, to remind them and connect them to the great truth -- that morning would come, that there were grown-ups who cared and were watching over them, that there would be more food when they awoke. [...] We are each other's holding bread."

We, the wider community of believers and want-to-believers, are all striving to follow a higher power, though we have moments where doubt and fear tell us otherwise. What we do know for sure, however, beyond dispute or refute, is that other human beings are with us right now, and it is our mandate as fellow travelers to extend hands, offer snacks, and say hello. Because even if nothing ends up coming after this bumpy ride of a life, we will at least have manifested love during our time here.

That's why I remain hopeful that Nature Boy and I will find a new spiritual community. The body of Christ is by definition much bigger than one person and one decision. And the more we seek, the more we explore, the more we hold hands with smiling strangers, the more I feel the wide circle of arms drawing closer, and I know we will be ok.

Prayer #291: Holding Bread

As bakers yawn and stumble gather in the pre-dawn hours to tie their aprons and stoke their ovens, so we rub our groggy eyes and squint to see You in the filmy light. And though we cannot not always see clearly, we continue to bake bread and break bread in Your name.

Help us offer this sustenance in abundance and never with condition. When we profess our need for you, knead us in return -- a gentle heel, a firm pat, an attentive push to rise higher than we've risen before, filled with breath and room and life to spare.

Amen.

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