Saturday, June 25, 2016

Thoughts at the Closing of GA 222

I have something I want to say.

I learned it from the Episcopalians, but I never really internalized it until now.

Today, in the closing worship for GA, the vice moderator from GA221, Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, preached a prophetic sermon. She preached about the pain and injustice in the world, and how, like the Apostles after Christ's ascension, we still don't quite get it--WE'RE the ones to share the good news, WE'RE the ones to be the body of Christ, WE'RE the ones to be witnesses to the world.

But because of some things happening in my personal life, I couldn't hear the second half of that message. All that my brain could process is how awful the world can be, and how terrible people are to one another, and how hopeless everything seems. I couldn't feel the joy and determination that I'm sure her message intended to convey. People around me were shouting, "Amen!" "Yes!" "Hallelujah!" and I just sat in my seat, feeling dead inside.

As we began to sing, "The World is About to Turn," my voice cracked and tears began to run down my face. I intellectually and theologically know that God is in charge, that "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well" (Julian of Norwich), and that goodness is stronger than evil (Desmond Tutu), but my soul did not believe it in that moment.

And yet, even as my voice faltered and my vision clouded with tears and my hope was nowhere to be found, I heard those around me singing with strong, confident voices. I heard the hope in the voices of those who had spent an exhausting week doing the (often tedious) work of the church, and their determination as they prepared to go back into the "normal" world. I did not feel it, but I heard it.

When I first began working in the Episcopal Church, someone explained their fondness for the strictly defined liturgy (perhaps "fondness" isn't the right word, but it's the one that's coming to me at the moment) by reminding me that the Book of Common Prayer ensures that all Anglicans the world over are saying the same words, praying the same prayers, and engaging their faith with the same scripture at (more or less) the same time. And she told me, "When I stumble in my faith, when I can't lift my voice to join in the prayers, I know that others are doing it for me."

We like to think of faith as an individual thing, that it's each person's responsibility to make sure they're on board, and that's true to an extent. But one of the most beautiful things about being part of the community of Presbyterians, of Protestants, of CHRISTIANS, is that when we're not quite on board, when we can't be strong and hopeful and faithful, we're not alone.

So thank you for having faith when I find it difficult. Thank you for singing when I can't. I pray that I will be able to do the same for you one day.

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