For a lot of years, church didn't hold many answers for me. Our family had big trouble: my mom's death, my father had Muscular Dystrophy, my brother was a wild child, I was a little nuts. Then one day, I was helping a community group cook and clean up. Women working and talking and laughing together. Righteous women, the women who were the backbone of community, of good things being done for other people. And I wanted to shuck the trouble and be part of something that was progressive, intelligent, compassionate, and some how helped people out.
So I went back to church, at a Methodist Church. It worked for for me, because it took spirituality seriously, took community seriously, took learning seriously. And there was no small amount of laughter. People who have a lightness of spirit laugh.
But I hid out behind the pillars in the sanctuary for a good two years. Then my cousin got a walloping cancer diagnosis and that turned the whole family on it's ear. I prayed like a mad woman, so did friends and family all over the United States.
And then the unthinkable occurred. To our utter shock, she got better—a thing we did not think was possible. Instead of a death sentence, she got life. A life. While she has significant challenges, she also has a significant life. She owes her life to medicine. And to prayer. Either one without the other. . .
So, I owe my church some props. Here are some of the great good things that are happening there.
1. There is real help and hope for the poor. We feed them once a week, then again once a month on another night, and we hand out 500 lunch bags a month. We're part of a community-wide grid to help people who are having a really hard time.
2. We get to participate in the arts: music, story-telling, visual arts, once in a great while, dance. Music is wonder-filled anyway, but to use it brilliantly to praise, it becomes another thing. I tease our music director that the music levitates us all a good six inches off the pews. I'm only partly teasing.
3. We're avid learners. There is no question that is not taken seriously. Kids are celebrated and protected. We read. We listen. We pay attention. We take classes in serious subjects.
4. We are a various congregation. We are doctors and lawyers and community leaders. We are people newly out of prison. We are writers and artists and thinkers. We welcome people from the gay community and provide a safe harbor for them. We are parents, teachers, and community activists. Some of us are homeless.
5. We take our pathways to God and to Jesus seriously, with great tenderness and reverence. And encourage people to come to Holy Things in their own way and their own time.
6. And for people like me, whose pathways have been rocky and unpredictable, the church provides a kind stability, a gentle community, and people who've become family, who have embraced my family. I am a little less nuts.