If you’ve spent any time at all hanging out in churches in the southern USA, or even hanging out with people who have, you are probably familiar with the pervasive notion of the way we’ve always done it!
(There are, of course, other people harboring the same notion, but I’m trying to speak from my experience. In fact, a few of you may have heard this story before but context is, as they say, everything and our current context is begging for this story!)
Once, when I was an MDiv student at Columbia Theological Seminary, a neighbor in the class ahead of me needed someone to preach for him on Sunday in a tiny church in West Georgia. I, fresh from my summer internship with 5 actual sermons under my belt, said I’d be honored.
I was also excited! And, it turned out, there was at least one question I didn’t yet know that I needed to ask.
On the morning in question I arrived, sermon manuscript in a snazzy folder along with my Bible, and robe neatly draped over my arm.
The organist met me in the parking lot and welcomed me warmly. She volunteered to introduce me and make a couple of announcements, showed me where to find the bathroom, and brought me a small cup of water. I was good to go!
With all the business stuff out of the way, I led the call to worship and then announced the first hymn. Amazing Grace. Safe and familiar.
The organist played a couple of measures for the intro and I raised my hands in the popular preacher signal for “y’all stand, please.”
Then we heard the organist magic which means “start singing”.
After two more repeats of the not singing thing, the light began to come on. There was no choir. They were waiting for me to open my mouth and start singing.
Me, who heard my whole life long about my grandfathers who could sing and my grandmothers who could not. I, it was made clear to me, was more like my grandmothers!
But, what we were doing wasn’t getting us anywhere and so I did.
I sang. By myself. In front of a church full of strangers. And, after the longest two words of my life, they sang, too!
And, just in case you’re curious, I lived!
I’ve felt like that a lot this week.
If we’ve learned nothing else, I suspect a great many of us are having a new experience of just how much the way we’ve been doing things isn’t working.
A great many more of us, those our pundits might term less privileged, are undoubtedly way ahead of the curve on that!
Our planet is crying out for healing.
Women, and intelligent men, are crying out for civil rights and bodily dominion.
And the enormous damage to a huge part of the USA is going to make legal, safe access to abortion a tragic survival strategy for many, many families who cannot imagine how to raise a child in the midst of all they’ve lost.
All this in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
If you’re still reading, my choice to leave behind generations of good girls are quiet and polite and don’t rock the boat is worth it!
That hasn’t worked for a very long time. If you haven’t read Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, now might be a good time.
Well, right after you call whomever your particular lawmaker-types might be and tell them what you need. Believe me, my gang in Congress are on it!
Honestly, I’d rather be sharing my favorite bone broth recipe with you. This has got to come first.
Now is the time!
ps… the Legendary figure in the painting-in-progress has her hand raised in a gesture of blessing. That’s for you!
pps… in Hebrew, the same word means both hand and power!