all saints

dad paver

Every year the church pauses to name the saints who are no longer physically with us.

This year we will be shepherded into and out of worship by bagpipes. The blast of sound will serve as a musical rupture of the thin veil separating the living from the dead.

The service is so very alive. We name church members who have died in the previous year and project their faces onto our screen as we savor the ways they have blessed and changed us.

This year our church has been changed by 20 deaths. While the grief around their passing is so very real so too is the pleasure of saying their names and remembering their being.

The seminary that I attended offered an opportunity to memorialize beloveds through buying a paver for a newly finished chapel courtyard. Since my father was for a time adjunct faculty at UTS and since my heart longs for places and times where his name can be in the hearts of the now, it felt so good to create a reminder that once he was, even as he still is in the hearts of many.

And of course during this thin veil time, I wonder about my own death and the day when it will be my face on the screen, my name on the lips, my being bookended with birth and death dates.

Poet Mary Oliver asks : “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Tomorrow we name those who answered that question every day they were given.

And so it comes to us.

How is it we plan to enter fully the wild and precious gift that is life?

Mindfully or no, we live our answer.

sermon interruptus

At Richfield UMC we offer three distinct worship services.

One is a “traditional” blended service held in the sanctuary.  We have a magnificent organ and lush music program.  We sing songs mostly out of the hymnals.

One of our services is held in that same space on Sunday morning and it is led in Vietnamese.  They too sing mostly out of the hymnal – traditional tunes with Vietnamese lyrics.

Our other service is called “Living Waters”.  We set out to create a worship service for the many who have been “painfully churched”.  So very often people have encountered boredom in church; a sense that they are to be passive consumers of someone else’s thoughts and convictions.

We didn’t want that.  So we set up the room with round tables and we meet in the Fellowship Hall with coffee cups and we welcome dogs and any other warm body seeking community and mind and heart stretch.

Our shared music is eclectic.  We use hymnal tunes, and we also use current and past secular music that brings the message of the day into our hearts.  We have a superb music leader, Victor Zupanc.  Victor is the Music Director at the Children’s Theatre.  He brings to our worship life a delight in working with different musicians, and a theologically questing spirit.  The man is poetry on the keys, and his spirit infuses our shared song.

One of the things that makes the service so fine is the people who gather.  We know each other, we like to play and question, and the work of the Spirit isn’t just about right answers, it is about finding our own answers to holy and vital soul questions.

Sharing a “sermon” in this context is not a one-way experience.  We share it.  Yesterday was an excellent reminder to me about why I love this service.  Twice during our sermon-slated time together, different members of the gathered asked a great question.  What this does is take us into the place where meaning is made.  Things get real fast when they are taken from one heart into many hearts.

In offering different sorts of worship, our church is seeking to live into transformation.  A great pulpit preach in a sanctuary where the gathered are active participants in the unfolding of the Word is pure gift.  I get to share that every Sunday.

And, I get to share the Word in a setting where collaborative unpacking of the Word is practiced.

So many gifts.  Blessed among women am I.