Salsa-Dancing and Sharing Our Faith

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!

 

In Christ,

Regina

Behind the Scenes: The Church School Creation Play!

This past Sunday, members of our Church School presented a play of the first lesson, of the Creation story from Genesis. They did a great job, and brought lots of imagination and creativity to the retelling of a familiar story! (“God” wore a cotta and held a “thumbs’ up” emoji sign to indicate that what he created was good!) This play was an example of the way that Jared, and now Tom, and the Christian Education Committee have been rethinking how we form our children in faith. Though we have put on plays with the Church School in the past (live or recorded), we haven’t done so in a while. About a year ago, the Christian Education Committee began a series of conversations about what we wanted to teach children and youth, and how we wanted to teach it. So often conversations about Church School begin with choosing curricula, but we wanted to take a step back and first look at our values and core beliefs as a parish, and then decide how best to teach those things. Only then would we look at curricula and formats. We decided we wanted children and parents participate in faith-forming activities together sometimes; to weave in music and the arts more; to teach the Bible creatively, and for children to have more participatory roles in worship. Social action and stewardship of creation is also important to us. All of these things, of course, mirror our larger values as a parish. Having these conversations helped us plan this Eastertide segment of Formation Station, the play. Children and parents worked together for weeks to revisit the story, come up with the “script,” work on costumes and posters and props, decide roles, and practice staging. This play was an act of “biblical imagination,” that brought children and parents together to creatively tell this story of our faith and reflect upon it. Even younger children had some questions: how did God create plants before creating the sun? (Look it up; they’re right!!) This was a good opportunity for a conversation about literal, historic truth and mythic truth! This Creation play is one example of how we are trying to be intentional, creative, hands-on, intergenerational, and worshipful in our ministry to and with children. Bravo, Grace Church School!

In Christ,
Regina

 The Spirit at Work

Pentecost was a busy and Spirit-filled day at Grace, with a special choral reading of the scripture from Acts and wonderful music during worship. The Church School practiced the short play of the Creation story that they will present next week; the Vestry met after church; and upstairs, Tom along with youth, parents, and other adults launched our new Youth Group over a pot of chili. In the evening, the Choir offered a Pentecost Choral Evensong, with an offering going to Refugee Immigration Ministries, and we welcomed a number of folks from the other five Jewish and Christian congregations we are working with. We raised $696 at that service for RIM!

We also had an unexpected gathering at church on Sunday. On Friday afternoon, Amelia received a call from a chaplain at Mt. Auburn Hospital. A young woman with a terminal cancer diagnosis was about to be married; her family had gathered from overseas for the wedding. Very sadly, she died just before her wedding day, and her family had nowhere to hold her funeral service on Sunday. Could we provide them room? Well, even with all our services and meetings, we were able to find a space and a time for this funeral service, led by the chaplain, just after Vestry and before Evensong.

We pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire us, to work through us. This Sunday, I believe that the Holy Spirit was very present with us, in our celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in our children’s creativity, in the ongoing work of leadership, in the work of starting a new ministry with youth, in prayers sung in the tradition of Anglican choirs of old, and in offering a space at the last minute for family and friends to mourn. May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire us, to challenge us, to comfort us, to draw us nearer to God, this season and always.

In Christ,
Regina

Beneficial Cycle

On Waiting and Slow Work