Friday night I participated in Relay for Life with folks from work. We had a great time… and I felt rather icky yesterday after the lack of sleep. I’m the kind of person who needs her sleep, and I suffer – or perhaps the people around me do? 🙂 – when I don’t get enough sleep. I mostly took it easy yesterday, and I hadn’t decided yet whether to go to church this morning.
When I awoke this morning, still tired and groggy and generally sort of blah, I decided to go. I showered and shaved and got all ready, then headed up to the church. It’s a beautiful day – sunny and warm, with a bit of a wind. I got one of the last few spots in the parking area, laughing because it’s been a long time since I got to church with only five minutes left before the service. I grinned hugely when I got out of the car. I adore my parish, and it lifts my heart just to turn into the drive. I smiled and greeted several people. Before this parish, I hadn’t really done this before. I’ve been here just over a year now, and I know more people by sight and by name than I did at the parish I transferred from, which is where I’d worshipped growing up and for years since. People here look genuinely pleased to see you, whether they know you or not.
Before each service starts, the priest comes out to introduce himself or herself and to welcome everyone. Then our practice is to stand up and greet the people around us, particularly if you see someone you don’t know or don’t know well. And then, we’re called to sit for a moment in silence to prepare for worship. A moment later, the bell rings outside, the organist begins the opening hymn, and we stand to sing and worship. It is a wonderful way to begin our worship together, as a community, as brothers and sisters, as the body of Christ. Despite how introverted I am, I soak this up, and it feeds me.
During this time this morning, a lady turned around from two pews in front of me and mouthed the words, “Can you heal today?” Apparently the other person scheduled for healing prayer ministry today hadn’t been able to make it, so I nodded, agreeing to pinch-hit. Healing prayer may be the greatest gift to me, in the ministries I’ve undertaken. It is in healing prayer that I’ve learned how to pray extemporaneously – you know Episcopalians, if it isn’t written in a book, then we can’t pray it! – that I’ve learned to be silent more and listen, even when the other person isn’t speaking; that I’ve learned that no matter how broken I am, God can use me for God’s purposes. This morning was absolutely no exception. I had more people approach me for healing prayer than I’ve ever had before, and two of them were newcomers to our parish. Of course, I was torn by this, because I really wanted to say something welcoming to them after the service, but I thought that might make them uncomfortable, possibly being perceived as a breach of confidentiality.
I absolutely adore being part of the altar party during the Eucharistic prayer. I found myself transported during the Sanctus (which is pretty normal for me, actually), utterly entranced in the prayer, and having tears on my cheeks during the Our Father. And then I received the elements, with a big smile on my face, and moved to the back of the nave. The last person who came to me was in great need, and we prayed together until almost the end of the priestly blessing that concludes the service. I slipped back into my pew just in time for the closing hymn, which I sang with much relish and joy.
As is my practice, I listened to the organist’s postlude, applauded him with those of us still in the nave, and then joined the line of folks slowly making their way to the doors. I hugged our priest and made my way over to coffee hour. (I KNOW! I NEVER went to coffee hour before I came to this parish!) I had a bit of cake and some lemonade there, talked to several folks, hugged our other priest, and then headed out to my car, singing hymns to myself (well, humming where I couldn’t remember the words) the whole way.
It was a wonderful morning. I am so very, very glad I went to church. It was so tempting to blow it off today, since I wasn’t on the schedule for anything, since I was tired, since I could use the rest. But instead, I went. And there, God said, thank you, darling. I’m glad you joined the family! This is your home, my beloved child. This is where you belong. Thank you for helping to heal my other children. I know you are broken, and I know you hurt, too. And I’m so glad, my precious child, that you allow me to use those in you to help your brothers and sisters. I love you. Welcome home.