Last night I had a revelation. For five years I have served a small congregation of people committed to an intimate sharing of the Christian journey. We gather, worship and share in a circle, the worship is shared, every piece of the service is lay-led except for the sermon portion and even there all I do is to prompt a question that arises from the Gospel text. Once I have framed the question and made sure it is a clear question I get out of the way so the circle can take shape and reflect the how the Spirit is moving among us. Most nights the quality of the sharing is spectacular, and some nights there is a lot of talk but we don’t quite reach lift off. We just don’t know how the Spirit will come to life until the conversations and sharing begin. It is truly a mystery.
My style of leading such a group is to try and hit the sweet spot, namely connect the Gospel’s wisdom with our collective hunger for the truth, to connect our diverse life stories with THE story of Jesus. I take this challenge very seriously and craft a liturgy, one where everyone takes a part, to help us get to that sweet spot. Sometimes we get there, sometimes we don’t. But it is never from lack of trying.
A while back we invited a very skilled colleague to come into our midst and help us conform to the United Church of Canada governance protocols. These rules carry with them an expectation that there be a certain number of lay people to do the work of the church. There is also a fairly clear expectation of a middle-class culture existing within the church to carry out the Manual’s governance model. The church I serve on Sunday nights has neither the number of people, nor the number of people with the skills necessary to make a typical United Church governance model work. So my colleague had a challenge on his hands. But meet this challenge he did, my colleague designed a model for the church whereby we would hold Congregational Meetings on a quarterly basis. All we needed was a Chair, a Secretary and a Treasurer, along with a number of Trustees. This plan has worked wonderfully, allowing us to be the Church God is calling us to be as well as living up to the expectations of our denomination.
“But what if we schedule one of these meetings and we have no business to discuss”, asked one member. My colleague had a great answer, “have a fun night”. Last evening the Chair of our Congregation came with a series of games, all designed to help us know one another better and have some fun. And it worked like a charm! I witnessed members who rarely speak in our circle all animated and deeply involved, I saw people getting to know each other better, I was part of an atmosphere of playfulness and care that can sometimes be absent in intimate and intense conversation.
I have always known the power of “breaking bread” in community, I don’t think I fully appreciated what fun and games can do for a community until last night. There was a part of me that almost suggested forgoing the worship time and focusing all night on the games. But I knew some of the members would feel disconnected if we did not attend to our worship life. So worship we did. And it was a meaningful time in the circle. But the life of the Spirit had come to us before the worship began and we all felt its presence all night. The Spirit was alive. It is often alive in our circle. But it is not often alive in laughter and fun. We took a break from our usual tone of deep sharing last night. I am glad we did. We needed it. I needed it. I think every community needs it. Thank you Heather!