Yesterday, I went on a pilgrimage. The magnificent author, Anne Lamott, was reading from her new book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.
As is the case with most pilgrimages, I really had to want it. Central is just across from the state capitol, smack in the middle of downtown Atlanta. The building is gorgeous. My favorite part, though, was the sign hanging outside that read, “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome.” While I have lots of fond memories of being there in the past, it’s definitely outside my perceived neighborhood. It also involved a Saturday night after dark. And navigational challenges. And parking challenges.
Bill came along. It’s nice to have other pilgrims along the way!
I’ve been moved and inspired by Annie’s words for what seems like ages, now. She is equal parts comfort and challenge, which is no easy place to stand and a voice we all need. So much so that my immediate coping strategy after the recent national election was to re-read almost everything she’s written.
Annie gets it.
And shares her own, often vulnerable, journey on the road to dealing with it. I don’t know about you, but I can use all the help I can get at dealing with it!
The evening began with a joyous, “Peace be with you,” from Central’s interim pastor, and one of my teachers, David Cozad. The full throated answer came, as so many of us knew it would, “And also with you!” Something holy was about to happen.
Annie’s reading was, at least for me, half Balm in Gilead and half get-off-your-ass. Which, I suspect, is just what the world needs. I feel blessed and honored to have been there.
Mostly, she told stories. Many of the sort that twelve step communities might call her experience, strength, and hope.
Then she read for a bit, from the second chapter of Hallelujah Anyway. I will admit to wanting you to get your own copy and float around in it like really excellent chicken soup so I’m not going to give much away just now.
After she read, Annie invited questions. And the questions came. Personal. Intense. Longing. Bubbling with pain and need. Each of those questions was met with attention and grace and mercy. Most of us, I suspect, will be praying for a particular woman, in the next days and weeks, that she discover how to extend mercy to herself. It is a skill we very much need. A skill that hundreds of us got just a bit better at because a petite woman with bright red shoes and dreads showed us the way.
When we got home, our resident four-footed givers and needers of mercy were thrilled to see us and only a bit more spoiled than usual by their friendly babysitter. And I had an overwhelming urge to hug my two-footed kids.
Best. Date. Night. Ever.
The last word, though, properly belongs to Annie… a quote I love from the first chapter:
More often than not, the North Star that guides me through the darkness is the Old Testament prophet Micah. He must have looked like a complete stoner or a Game of Thrones extra, and smelled like a goat, yet nearly three thousand years ago, he spoke the words that often remind me of my path and purpose: “What doth God require of thee but to do justice and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Annie is one of us. A Fiercely Compassionate Grandmother, even if she doesn’t know it yet. And I’m voting for Micah, too!
Oh, one more thing I know Annie would want me to mention. If you’re in Marin City on a Sunday morning, drop by St. Andrew Presbyterian Church. Services at 11:00.
If, instead, you happen to be in Atlanta, my friends at Central Pres would be delighted to see you as well. Services at 11:00.
Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott