What a beautiful day.
We woke up and played, then ate our scrambled eggs, and then went to church.
Our church has a tradition of moving services from the sanctuary to the chapel for the summer. First, because the chapel is air conditioned, second because there are less people attending in the summer. Our ministers take hiatus during the hot months, so they can go in search of what stirs and pokes at their soul. While they are away, lay people take over services. I went once, but the low ceiling made me claustrophobic. Nowadays, the Sinkis take the summer away, too. We find God in the lakes, in the garden, in our sore muscles after a long and challenging hike...
So, today we were back. We brought the kids to their character school classrooms. Willa is now old enough that she joins the other grades upstairs. Henry joined his (mostly boys) class in the 4 year old room.
The service was wonderful. An excerpt of Desmond Tutu's "God is Not a Christian" was one of the readings. In the middle of the reading, I looked around to see if anyone could see that lightening had just struck me and I was turned inside out. The reading spoke to me. In my teens I remember laughing when I thought of a heaven, partitioned off by faith traditions. It seemed so ridiculous to me. Today, the thought was deeply profound. Of course God is not a Christian. Of course Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam or any other religion) doesn't have sole ownership on virtue. Or mistakes. I know this. But someone said it out loud. In a church. From a pulpit. Reading the thoughts of a man who wears a white collar around his neck!
Our minister had written her sermon before the world got all crazy again. Before someone released a video "in the name of Christianity/America" and upset people. Before those people killed the US ambassador "in the name of Islam." Before our politicians and pundits and media spun it all until the good guys were obvious. Before the battleships were deployed, and before we all held our breath and let go a silent, pleading prayer for peace. But it was timely, and brave, and important.
It was a beautiful service, and we all left with the message that was shared from the same pulpit months ago when Louis Farrakhan visited to speak to our city. He's a divisive character, and raises eyebrows everywhere, but try this idea of his on and see how it fits. He suggested that when Christians start acting like Christians, when Muslims start acting like Muslims, and when Hindus start acting like Hindus, we won't have any problems.
That is, when we all start acting like we should according to our own faith, we'll have that beautiful worldwide kumbaya movement.
I've been told that our church, because it doesn't follow specific doctrine, should not be called a church. But I've never been anywhere else that encouraged and supported and challenged me to be a better citizen. I've never been in another church that allowed me to see my own inner wisdom and ignorance so clearly. I've never been anywhere that acknowledges the sacred texts of the Bible, the Torah, and Dr. Seuss equally. I find God in the first (and the 81st) ripe tomato in the garden, and my faith is in kindness and compassion. I am home. It was good to be home again today.
Service closed with the choir singing of of my favorites. Here are the lyrics:
This is my song oh God of all the nations
A song of peace for lands afar and mine
This is my home, the country where my heart is
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine
But other hearts in other lands are beating
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine
But other lands have sunlight too and clover
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine
This is my song oh God of all the nations
A song of peace for their land and for mine
I know this is getting to be a long entry. But I'm not done.
I did, in fact, cry during the hymn. Because of cold hearts who can't explore and accept people who think or feel differently than them. Because some believe their faith encourages "being right" over "being good." Because in other nations there are mothers who are worried about the safety of their children with more reason that I have to worry about the safety of mine. Because in another city, my sweet, gentle aunt is dying after cancer greedily took over her body. And her husband, and daughters are preparing to let her go.
I cried and cried - because I was in my church home and this was the emotional parallel of putting on comfy pants. Jim put his arm around me while I wiped my cheeks. He's used to this. Pals, I'm really comfortable there.
Church was done, and we collected our children. We stopped for our usual Sunday bagels, and then went to Kids Food Basket to volunteer for an hour.
The rest of the day was spent in the woods with a friend and his two daughters. The sunlight on the meadow with goldenrod in bloom, and the tall dried grasses swaying was amazing. The laughter of the 4 kids was precious. The sky was blue. The song of peace, the prayer for peace continues.