For The Someday Book

Ecclesiastical Wounds

Posted on: December 6, 2009

We had an information session for potential new members at church today. I always begin by asking people to share a bit of their history and the spiritual journey that brought them to this place. In the UCC, people generally have a broad spectrum of history with the church. In nearly nine years of ministry, at least two dozen of these groups, I have never had anyone who didn’t have a story to tell. What always amazes me is the pain and heartache in people’s stories.

Today, one of the participants was a woman who was raised at our church and is returning after many years. She shared what had started her drifting away in the first place. As a child, she was often sick and consequently was behind her peers in her reading skills. At Sunday School, they were often called upon to stand and read, which always embarrassed her and left her feeling bad about herself. So she began to drift away from church altogether. It seemed like such a small thing, but it was enough to keep her away for years.

It got me to thinking about how fragile people are when they enter our church doors. When people come to worship, they wear their hearts and souls on their sleeves in a way they do not do anywhere else in their lives. I know it’s true for me, when I’m not in leadership–I come to church with my heart out, vulnerable and open with tears just below the surface. Interactions that wouldn’t merit a second thought in the world can send me into an emotional tailspin in church. Every little slight or disruption seems magnified, because I have taken off not only my armor but even my skin in order to expose my heart to God.

I sometimes complain about how touchy people can be about church stuff, but I realized today that such sensitivity is also part of the true power of God’s church. People come with their hearts out, trusting the pastor and the community to have their hearts out too, so that God has a better chance of coming close.

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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