“…and neither can the individual bear such universal suffering and sadness.” Richard Rohr’s reflection Our Faith is In Community resonated, while this last line articulated the weight under which I’ve been struggling. I need corporate worship. I need to experience the whole, to see the larger picture of which I am a part.
On my own, I don’t know how to believe that I am a child or heir of God. It is being together in our wholeness, with the entire body of Christ, that makes it somehow easier to believe that we are beautiful. We each have our own little part of the beauty, our own gifts of the Spirit, as Paul says that the particular way “the Spirit is given to each person is for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
I paused from writing to search for photos of past outdoor fellowship gatherings. Retreats! Cookouts, bags’ tournaments, water play. I miss you all! The children have grown. None of us are getting younger, and I long for the beauty of togetherness. To help me believe.
Summer is coming. The vast majority of NCF is vaccinated. We understand the efficacy of masks to protect each other and ourselves. The sanctuary has space to spread out. New HVAC air filtration is installed and ceiling fans clear the air. Much has changed, within and around us, but our need for each other remains.
So we, in our corporate wholeness, are the glory of God, the goodness of God, the presence of God. As an individual, I participate in that wholeness, and that is holiness! It’s not my private holiness; it’s our connectedness together. In Peter’s words, echoing the Hebrew Scriptures, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart, who have been called out of darkness into this wonderful light. Once you were not a people at all; now you are the very people of God” (1 Peter 2:9–10).
As a Montana girl, I am an ardent individualist. I read the Bible on my own, and listen to my personalized “Jesus is the Answer” online music station on my headphones while I walk. I marvel that the pandemic enabled NCF to finally offer our whole worship service online, every week, for anyone, anywhere. What an incredible gift as we are spread throughout the world, and sometimes confined to our homes.
I need you to survive. To bear the weight of the suffering and the violence that is close to home, in our past and present. But also to experience again that there is more joy than sorrow. That goodness is stronger than evil. To be on a path that leads to increasing wholeness, as in Rohr’s Wholeness is Holiness reflection:
You will hear harmony, not simply the cacophony of a fragmented self. You will also sense the energy of the larger whole—an energy that goes beyond your own. You will, at least occasionally, experience the thrill of being simply a small part of a large cause, the thrill of being a tool, seized by a strong hand and put to an excellent use. You will be comforted by knowing that we are all interconnected. In a very real sense, therefore, what you do for another, you do for yourself. Love passed on to others becomes the most meaningful form of self-love, and care of the earth and its inhabitants becomes care of self.
I hunger for this wholeness, this holiness. And I look forward to gathering together again, each as they are ready. Outside, at Hessel Park in Champaign on Sunday June 6th, during our traditional Sunday time. The online service will continue to be available, whenever, wherever you need it. And may we soon gather again for worship, snapshots of the church, the body of Christ.