It might surprise you to learn that I don’t always want to come to church. I frequently, even usually, get myself to church more or less of my own accord, and once I’m there, snickering with Jessica while we mark up the scores during choir practice or serving snacks during Coffee Hour or, well, taking notes on the sermon, I’ve long forgotten my reluctance to peel myself out of bed. But today I woke up with a headache, and the thought of staying in bed, complete with the cat perched on my chest, was terribly tempting. The only thing that got me moving was remembering that it was New Member Sunday. I’ve been involved in the process of inviting the nine wonderful folks who officially joined Judson today through my work on the Membership Committee, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to be with them as they, to borrow Lyla’s words, made their relationships with and accountability to Judson official. So I took a quick shower, popped a few Advil, poured my coffee in my travel mug, and headed out.
Micah abbreviated his sermon by a good ninety percent today, apparently at his father’s urging, a fellow minister who asked him, “Have you ever thought about just shutting your mouth?” His father meant, of course, “Have you considered letting the spiritual testimonies of your prospective members speak for themselves, allowing the gravity and generosity of their sharing their journeys to stand as a testimony to the power of spiritual community?” And it was a good question, and Micah, wise as he is, recognized the wisdom in it (even though we’re all sorry to have missed the planned sermon on Socialist Jesus). But I wrote it down, and noticed, a little later, what I’d jotted down just before: I feel like I’ve done everything wrong, and I don’t want to do it today.
What I meant was that getting serious about writing, while it has been a blessing to me, has not been an unmitigated one. Committing to writing more, and sharing it with the world, has also brought with it the pain of recognizing that I didn’t take this part of myself seriously for so long, and that I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time, so much that I sometimes fear that it’s too late. I know this isn’t true. I’ve read that meme about Alan Rickman and Louise Bourgeois and Oprah and everyone. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments of thinking about giving it up. I have definitely thought about shutting my mouth.
Blessings are often mitigated. Micah asked the community, as he introduced the prospective members who would make their (thoughtful, beautiful, moving) statements of faith, to consider, “What brought you here? What keeps you coming back? When did it make you fall deeper in love, when did it break your heart? What made you show up this morning?…We bring trauma to this place every time we enter it, and we bring miracles to this place every time we enter it.” My relationship with the page (or the WordPress blog template) is like that sometimes too, and certainly one’s relationship with a church can be like that too. There was opportunity for heartbreak during the congregational meeting in the afternoon: the news that our old lift, already having fallen on hard times, may be irreparable, leading to a real accessibility crisis that we’d hope to stave off for a few years; there are scary times ahead for our budget.
But there was joy also, in the midst of conducting the necessary, even tedious, even painful business of being a church. Valerie is being elevated to Assistant Minister; we are joining the Reclaim Pride Queer Liberation March for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall; we’re forming a separate 501(c)(3) to support development that will, we hope, allow us to better maintain our building that is far more than a church, but also a vital community resource.
And there was joy in receiving the new members, in hearing why they wanted to join. It’s been a real pleasure sharing my own journey with them and hearing theirs in the last few weeks as they considered membership. I loved Thomas’s observation: “Grace is available to all of us in endless supply, but it takes work to get the word out.”
So I’m glad I came to church this morning. I’m grateful for blessings, even mitigated ones. And I suppose, upon further consideration, that I’m not ready to shut my mouth just yet.