Not What I Expected

the violin and the pianoI thought Sunday was all about St. Patrick’s Day so when I got to church and saw a fiddle on the cushioned pew seat up front I thought,  “Wow, we’re going to have reels! Maybe even some step-dancing!”

But I was wrong in several ways that day.

First, in my attempt to wear green and still be warm on a mighty frosty morning, I wore a green wool scarf along with my fake-emerald pendant. I felt so good about the green AND the fact that I would actually be getting to church on time that I asked David to take my picture, which he very nicely did. The only problem was, I had put on one green earring and one purple one, which I didn’t realize ’til I looked closely at the photo.

But that wasn’t my only wrong assumption, as I say. I was wrong as well about the fiddle music. The violin that lay on that first pew seat at the front of the church was there because this was to be a Healing service, something that I had forgotten had been scheduled for this third Sunday in March.

I hadn’t expected when I arrived that I would soon see people filing quietly toward three healing stations in the sanctuary while a woman played that violin, accompanied by the organist/fill-in choir director who sat at the piano beside her. I had been to a healing service 20 years before at the height of the AIDS crisis and remembered the way people had come from all over Metropolitan area to be at it, some of them very visibly sick with the scourge that AIDS was in the early 90s.

I hadn’t expected to feel so moved as I watched the folks seeking healing sit in the designated chair as two people on either side and the person directly in front leaned in to hear what each had to say. Some spoke of what they needed healing for and some just bowed their heads to indicate they sought general prayers and the blessing that would follow.

In both cases, for me in the fifth pew, the sound of their whispers was as the sound of water over stones in a springtime brook.

So there were several surprises for me on that day. Sure I’m always sorry to miss a chance to hear an Irish reel but the sweet sobbing of the violin more than made up for any sense of loss on that score.

Here now is Greg Scott playing Jay Ungar’s Ashokan Farewell, a tune we associate with the dim past because Ken Burns used as it the theme song for his documentary The Civil War. In fact it was written just 30 years ago. Listen to it now and think how for all the old beauty Creation shows us there is also much new beauty. Then think how, as my church teaches, revelation abounds, and God surely IS still speaking in this world.

To Full Equality

This is My Independence Day Story: To Full equality, in marriage and everywhere else !

How would it be for you as a parent, if you gradually came to understand that your just-emerging-from-college daughter had fallen in love with another young woman, and six years passed and she loved her still?

How would you feel if you belonged to a church that around this time chose to examine the possibility of going on record as a place welcoming to any woman who loved a woman, to any man who loved a man, the same as it is to any person who entered there to worship?

And if one day during this 18-month-long period of study, prayer and reflection designed to let people really examine this possibility, a woman stood and expressed her concern about how “these people” might fit in, I wonder if it would surprise you to hear the man in the neighboring pew whisper to his wife, “She doesn’t realize: she’s talking about our son.” Or if it would surprise you to learn that a half-dozen other parents present that morning were likely thinking the same: “You speak of our children, onetime singers in the Junior Choir and assistants in the Sunday School; our children, whom you have known since their infancy.”

I wonder how you might then feel if, after that lengthy consideration, your church voted “Yes. Let the word go forth that we in this 150-year old community of the United Church of Christ unanimously choose to be known as an Open and Affirming congregation.”

And if you were yourself one of these parents and if your above-mentioned daughter and her beloved sought to undergo a Liturgy of Commitment here, I wonder how you would feel to have the Deacons say “Yes. By all means yes, and we are delighted. For you are our own daughter, and this one that you love is our daughter now too.”

I wonder how you might feel if, during this ceremony, your husband of 33 years with his hair now white but his manner still so gentle stood to recite a fatherly poem to the two; if he prefaced it by saying he knew he spoke too for the much-missed dad of your daughter’s beloved, gone now into death’s quiet corridor; if he then paused and looked over at this young woman where she sat beside your girl and said aloud to the very large assembly there gathered that he couldn’t be happier that his daughter had chosen her for a life partner.

I wonder: Would it not lift your heart to hear the verses he then read by poet Gail Mazur?“What you want for it you’d want for a child, “it goes. “That she take hold; that her roots find home in stony winter soil; that she take seasons in stride… “That she know, in her branchings, to seek balance. That change not frighten her, rather that change meet her embrace… that she find her place in an orchard.”

And if, in the year following, a baby should come to their house, would you not rejoice and be glad? As we rejoiced last month when we first saw this newborn with his grave and curious look, with his chest no wider than a lady’s hand, held so tenderly in their slender young arms?

I think you might, if it became personal for you in this way.

I think the realization might dawn within you that this is what is chiefly asked of us here: That we make a family. That over the long years we spend ourselves in many deeds of care and kindness, and make a place where such children as we are sent can shelter. And take root. And one day find their own place in the orchard.