A short story from my past, around 15 years ago:
“So, how come we go up and stand around the altar at this point?” I asked them. “What’s that about?” The elder of the group spoke up: Because there’s not too many of us, and there’s room for all of us to come up and stand.
I knew that Elise was smart and thoughtful and engaged, but still, her answer was much more liturgically astute than I was expecting from a not-quite-eight-year-old.
“Okay, so what makes us want to come up and stand around the altar?” I asked. “What are we doing?” As the group was contemplating and conferring, one of the four-year-olds piped up, “Because God is in the middle.”
This exchange used to enter my head—quietly, without drawing attention to itself—every time we gathered around the altar for communion at Good Shepherd. Because God is in the middle.
Six months after I began serving Good Shepherd as long-term supply priest, we suddenly could no longer gather to worship at 9th and Hearst in Berkeley. How could we possibly gather around with God in the middle when we couldn’t even be in the same room together?
And yet, we did, and we do.
We adapted to environmental changes while remaining true to who we are. When there was no way for us to be together, we found a way. When we couldn’t find a way, we made a way. We remembered and reminded one another that we are nimble, creative, capable of surprising ourselves. We continue to be a circle with God in the middle, lifting our hearts and voices in song and prayer, in grief and in wonder, a circle made of faith-in-action, because this is who we are.
My hope for this year is that we shall continue creating and re-creating, leaning into the challenges that arise, daring to rejoice and defying the devil.
What is it that you hope for?
Yours by grace,