On Sunday, the search committee tasked with finding our new minister for justice and witness interviewed a potential candidate. She sat through morning worship, and, though her role would be to lead the church to “do justice and love mercy,: especially on behalf of our friends who live outside, she also would be one of our pastors. We talked a good bit about her ideas and her experience with social justice work, but, in the end, I wanted to know how she had experienced our worship service and if she could see this as her spiritual home. Her reply was, “In worship this morning, I experienced the Kingdom of God.”
Her response mirrored well what I had been thinking during the service as I looked out at a remarkably diverse congregation. One of the first people served during communion was a world-renowned singer who was visiting. The last person served was a homeless person who comes in near the end of the service and kneels at the prayer altar, and then ravenously consumes the food during coffee hour. During the service, we prayed for the slain and wounded Dallas police officers and their families. I know one of the men who was shot. We also prayed for our African-American brothers who continue to be killed by police without any significant provocation. We prayed for the Black Lives Matter movement and repented together that we live in a country where it is still necessary even to say that.
We joined hands to pray, which we seldom do because, though the church is six or seven times the size it once was, we still are scattered across the sanctuary. This Sunday, however, it felt like we needed to hold the hands of our children and youth; of our gay and lesbian and transgender members; of our African-American sisters and brothers; of our Hispanic members, those with documents and those without; of white folks who still are learning about our privilege and the responsibility it brings. Holding hands, we prayed together for our nation and for our church that we would have the courage to face the brokenness around us with integrity because we were willing to grapple with the brokenness within us.
Yes, it looked like the realm of God to me as people were honest and vulnerable and open to one another and to the grace we and our world need so desperately. How can we keep singing the song, but missing the point? Well, for just a moment at least, it felt like a few folks worshiping in the heart of the South opened their souls to a new Way of being in the world. Pebbles create ripples that can become tidal waves …
Rev. Michael Piazza