AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Laura Boggs
Once in a while, Jordan asks me to do something. (Always with the option to say no, thanks). Write a letter. Write a blog. This past Sunday: stand in the back of the room, ready to offer a word of prayer.
I don’t say it out loud, but the loud, loud voice in my head says,
Are you for real?
I wonder if I’m equal to the task. Of course I’m not equal to the task.
When we face a job beyond our capabilities or comfort, we’re in vulnerable territory. Here we’re more apt to say, Jesus, help.
Or, for short, J.J.
J.S. Bach wrote J.J. at the top of many of his musical manuscripts, petitioning Christ before he composed. Mind you, I’m not penning any fugues or cantatas. But I know when I’m out of my depth and could use divine assistance.
So, about Sunday, I said yes. Yes to entering into that precarious, Jesu-Juva place.
Me + a first-Sunday-of-Pentecost service in which we lean into Anglicanism’s charismatic arm?
That’s a stretch for this recovering high church-aholic.
Who knew church could feel so… dangerous?
A Risky Enterprise
Dangerous—that’s how David Darnell described Sunday’s service. It was off-script, off-screen.
It was, at first, awkward.
But was the Spirit there?
The Spirit was.
Even amid the squeamish. Perhaps especially amid the squeamish. We’re the ones (are there others like me?) carried through fear to the other side, where we’re surprised by joy. Blessed beyond measure, in spite of our silly, skeptical selves.
(And as for offering that word of prayer… It was an honor of the first order. I am humbled by God’s patience with me.)
When it’s not encouraging us to adlib, The Parish has turned, at times, to a lovely book of prayers, Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey. A snippet of “A Liturgy Before Serving Others” says,
“So let my love be sincere,
and let my service be fearless, O Lord.”
Which is another way of saying, Jesu Juva.
Self-reliance fails to usher in sincere love or fearless service. These are the things I’m after. And so I find that it’s good to ask for help. It’s also good to be asked to help. They’re connected, the asking and the being asked.
Have you noticed? The Parish asks. (Nicely, with no pressure.) This asking—it’s a risky enterprise, a relinquishing of control. Participation is valued over polished perfection. And participants abound. This serves us well collectively; it works wonders for us individually.
Where our hands help, our hearts follow. We’re not visitors; we’re investors.
Every Member Holy.
By holy, I don’t mean pious or dutiful or striving. Author Mark Buchanan writes,
“Holiness is not a bid to be noticed or loved or accepted by God. Holiness, rather, is acting out and acting upon the truth that God has noticed, loved, and accepted us long before we did anything to warrant that.”
Noticed, loved, accepted!
You’ve probably heard.
The Parish is approaching a season of working toward deeper community, i.e., coming soon to a neighborhood near you: house churches. Five of them, meeting once a month for prayer and potluck, with an eye toward loving and serving others.
Will it be polished perfection?
(Are you for real?)
Full confession: I don’t like change. I like routine. I like the green front door of the Kalen Center. I like the passing of the peace. I like the coffee station.
I really like the coffee station.
But I’m sensing a pattern in this one wild and precious life: On the other side of change is surprising joy.
Strikingly, what we’ve been doing—and are setting out to do—was part of the original vision for The Parish eight years ago.
“As we grow, we use our unique God-given gifts and wiring to love and serve others. Each of us has a significant role in the work of renewal. Rather than consuming religious goods and services, we join in the project of seeing Christ’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven by loving and serving one another.”
A worthy project, indeed.
Projects require participants. And participants require help.
May we sink to our knees to ask.
I leave you with this:
“Hospitality means we take people into the space that is our lives and our minds and our hearts and our work and our efforts. Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step toward dismantling the barriers of this world.”
—Sister Joan Chittister of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie