What do I want to write about this morning, from the couch? The last one, as I am now officially off the couch. Our little church is reconvening next Sunday after 2 months being closed, in fact more than 2 months.
Well, it’s actual raining here, and I have been sitting reading a beautiful book, well finishing it, called “On the Brink of Everything”, watching as the raindrops fall. I think I have mentioned it in a previous entry. It is still wonderful.
It’s an apt title for this new beginning we are about to have.
But as I was reading the book from Parker Palmer, my phone pinged, telling me I had a notification from facebook. Often I would think to myself, “too tied to that *** phone”, and would ignore the ping, but this time I looked, and I was so glad I did.
Carrie Newcomer, one of my favourite singer/songwriters was doing a live concert, and because I follow her (all those who are on facebook know what that means) I clicked the link.
There she was singing away from the Sisters of Mercy Retreat Centre in St Louis, in the US, just her and a few guitars, for free. To all those who wanted to hear songs of hope, of challenge, of support and of community. Songs that are so needed there, at a time of protest, upheaval, and violence, and lack of compassionate leadership, all the time while the pandemic still rages.
But also songs that are needed here, with our own history of violence and racism. Black lives matter everywhere, and Australians also needs to wake up from the slumber we have been in about our own culpability and actions towards our indigenous brothers and sisters. That have led them to die early, be over represented in prisons, and have poorer outcomes in health, education and employment.
Sometimes things that happen overseas, strike a match in our own home…
I loved the songs, I love Carrie’s big heart, and her honesty. I loved that so many people connected to the concert online, sending messages of support and gratitude. That they connected strongly to her message of love for everyone.
But the most amazing serendipity about this morning, is that she is very good friends with Parker Palmer, and has written a few songs to go with the book I was reading when the ping came in!
Life is funny and sometimes very surprising.
I am not going to put a link to those songs but to one she played during the online concert.
It’s called, “There is room at the table”. Says it all really.
So be encouraged by the fact there are many, many people in the USA who are horrified and ashamed about what has been occurring and still is occurring, every single day. But also know there are many people here who are ashamed and horrified by what has occurred and continues to occur here.
If you too want to support the idea that racism and bigotry and injustice, is not how we should live together, if you want to support the idea that “Black lives matter”, join the march next Saturday that is being held in Perth. A peaceful march to focus the light on our own society and its inequality.
Of course, that may not be you, or you may be feeling cautious about doing that if you are older.
There are many other ways to get connected and be in solidarity with those protesting and with their message. As Parker Palmer says when he talks about it in his chapter “Keep Reaching Out”…..
“Our youth orientated culture sends a message to elders that can discourage and defeat us: It’s time to withdraw from serious engagement with a world that’s changing so rapidly you cant possibly keep up. So take up harmless hobbies and hang out at home.
There are only 3 problems with this message: 1. It robs older folks of sources of vitality, meaning and purpose. 2. It robs the world of the gifts elders have to offer. 3. Its ridiculous.
Other than that, it’s a great idea.
When I am with elders who have a mind heart connection with the world beyond their walls, I find find their vitality contagious, even if they are confined to their homes.”
So Parker Palmer suggests –
“if you can’t march, stay engaged with public life by using your voices and speaking your minds. You can write letters to the editor, speak up at local forums, or talk with family and friends about the things that matter to you and to them.
“Keep reaching out” means saying to the world, “I’m still a member of this community. I have a voice and things I need to say, and I want to be part of the conversation. Even more important it means saying all of that to yourself until it’s engraved on your heart.
It’s time to get off the couch! I think this is what Jesus was after, all those years ago.
Here’s the link to the song.
So many people are writing about change. The change we will face after the pandemic is over, particularly in the church/worship space. While I totally agree that change is coming, it’s in all spaces. How do we do medicine, shopping, sport and even concerts and music? It may never be the same again.
Of course, as I said, we are interested particularly in the church space. Sometimes people think it’s one massive entity, where everyone is doing or aiming for the same thing. This could be further from the truth. I know at Wembley Downs Uniting we have never seen the worship on a Sunday as the be all and end of our faith. It has always been the beginning, giving us insight and energy to take our faith, and our love and compassion out into the wider world.
We do always seem to meet on a Sunday, in the morning, although for many years we had a service once a month in the evening and with a shared meal. Perhaps we do need to become more flexible on what day we get together, since Sunday is now not seen as a rest day for many. Yet I still like the idea of a sabbath, when time is taken to reflect and gather oneself for the start of another week. So it’s open for discussion!
It does seem funny that I have just finished writing a sermon for Pentecost, about the Spirit of God, the divine presence that goes where it will, and urges us all, church goer or not, to do the best we can in the communities we are in. I totally agree with this.
So then why do I have a commitment to a church gathering together? Particularly since after the period of isolation, we have much more online material, and ways of communicating that is not in person. Clearly it doesn’t need a building!
What are we doing or being when we meet that I deem necessary to my life?
Well, I do think finding meaning and purpose in our lives, and developing a spiritual framework to guide us, can include a church gathering and a faith journey. Because our spiritual framework affects how we live and work in the world and how we deal with challenges, both sorrows and joys. It doesn’t require a belief in something we call God, of course, but for many of us this sacred element is part of the story. And our commitment to it leads us to seek and explore together, in person!
So I believe a church gathering is a time to become aware of the divine voice found in all of life, including our own, to sense community with those who might have a similar passion and faith, and to support one another as we do the work of Jesus and be his disciples in the world. It is has very little to do with a sacrificial sacrifice of Jesus. We don’t gather to worship Jesus, like an idol, but follow him, and we don’t gather to worship God, as though God is a person who needs worshipping, but to sense the presence of the spirit in our lives. And in the lives of those who have come before us.
It also has to do with our common humanity and the rights of every person to feel safe, have enough to eat, be educated, be included in societies decisions, be recognised as of value and share in the resources available. And the rights of the rest of the non-human creation, for without them we will not survive. Jesus spoke so much about inclusion and unity of purpose that it’s hard to believe this is not the main message. I believe it’s about how we see the world, how we see each other, and what we can contribute.
So how do we come together to worship post Covid-19? Well for a start I think it will be a long time for it to be post. We have to live with these changes for some time if not forever. And maybe singing and hugging will not come back for a while!
That’s the practicalities of getting together, and they are worth doing. I must admit I am wanting to reconvene, as I miss seeing my community gather in friendship, fellowship, and in hearing their visions and ideas.
Many of us find a church community helpful in getting this big picture. So I don’t encourage people to come to church to keep me in a job, but so that we can journey together in love and make a difference in the world, or in our little patch anyway.
Seems like a good reason to meet. Even if society thinks it’s kind of strange.