A number of you joined in our Grace Discussion Group discussion with Bishop Gayle Harris on Sunday, about sharing our faith with others. One of the things that came out of that discussion for me is that for some of us, this is very natural and has long been a part of our lives—but we tend to be in the minority of Grace parishioners. For most, sharing our faith with others does not feel natural, and can be a fraught and anxiety-provoking experience. If we mention how important our faith or our church community is for us, will others think we are fundamentalists? Will we offend our Jewish or Muslim or atheist friends? How on earth would be bring this up, anyway? This divide, between the few who find sharing faith easy, and the majority who find it akin to the prospect of dental surgery, was pretty stark.
In pondering why this should be, I remembered a conversation I had with my clergy buddy the Rev. Edwin Johnson, of St. Mary’s, Dorchester. Edwin is a salsa dancer; in fact, he is a teacher of salsa dancing, and even competes as a dancer. How did he come to be the amazing dancer that he is? Well, Edwin grew up in a home where everyone danced. At family gatherings, someone would put on music, and kids and adults would start dancing. He grew up going to dances, and can’t really remember a time when he wasn’t dancing. He asked me, “Did your family dance?” Um, no, Edwin, unless you count the Electric Slide at weddings. Edwin and I are from different cultural backgrounds; he grew up dancing, and I did not—though now knowing him, I sort of wish I had!
I think sharing our faith is the same way: some of us grew up in a family and church culture where talking about God, and prayer, and our church, were woven in to our daily conversations. And some of us grew up in a church culture where this was not the practice at all.
We are all part of a much larger culture that has changed dramatically with respect to religious practice—where if secular people think about it at all, they think of fundamentalism or conservative Roman Catholicism. If we want our community to know about our Episcopal Church, that welcomes all, that honors the ministry of women and the LGBT community, that believes in science and in working for social justice, and all of this because of and not in spite of the Gospel of Christ, then we need to tell them. We need to share our faith, in small ways and big ways. And that does mean that some of us are going to need to learn to salsa-dance, metaphorically speaking. We are going to need to create a new culture at Grace, which will involve some practice, and probably some looking and feeling foolish at times. And that’s okay. God calls all of us into the dance, and calls us to share the dance—and God will give us the strength and courage to do this new thing!