I really enjoyed church this past weekend. Like, a whole lot. I really felt spiritually connected in the worship setting for the first time in a while. I’d found spaces to feel spiritually connected in other ways, but not in the context of worship. But worship and the church activities after the service really resonated somewhere in the depths of my soul. And it was well with my soul.
The service began with the hymn “Cuando El Pobre”. At this church we generally sing Spanish versions of “contemporary” Christian songs like “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”, among others that similarly espouse what I consider to be a rather individualistic trend in modern Christianity. So when our praise band leader started in with “Cuando El Pobre”, a beautiful hymn about how God walks with us (“va dios mismo en nuestro mismo caminar”) when there is abundance, hope, peace, justice, and generosity, I knew something would be different about this service, and I knew it would resonate well with my soul.
We had a pastor visiting from another part of Colombia, who is apparently a fairly well-known theologian. He led the prayer of confession, but instead of simply starting in and allowing people to decide what they wish to confess as a sin, he began by explaining social sin. When there is violence, injustice, inequality, oppression, displacement, hatred, and hurt, there is sin against humanity, and those who were involved or complicit in the act played a role. At the mention of social sin, my heart skipped a beat; it was well with my soul.
Later in the service, there was a presentation by a group of women. The leader of women’s activities in our church had recently been to Medellin for a gathering for female Christian leaders from all over Colombia, which focused on the intersections of gender, the Bible, and leadership. This group performed a skit to demonstrate the various forms of violence, be they physical, psychological, structural, etc. that Colombian women face.
Two examples portrayed in the skit which really stood out to me (and not only because they were so well-acted, though that certainly played a role) were cases of domestic violence – one physical, in which the woman’s partner was beating her, and the other psychological, in which the woman’s partner was threatening to leave her. Both were begging and pleading for their partners to stop whatever they were doing, saying things like “I can change.”.Another which spoke powerfully to the reality of Colombian women was one who was displaced and her husband killed.
The skit, on the whole, was a chilling statement about the violence women face, and was followed by the woman who went to the gathering reading the statement about women’s issues that the gathering had written. When she got to the part that referred to God as “father and mother,” I felt my heart, as John Wesley put it, “strangely warmed.” It was well with my soul.
Then, the sermon. The visiting pastor preached, and used the Matthew 25 text about the sheep and the goats, one of my favorites (reminder for those of you who don’t remember what this one was: “whatever you have done to the least of these [Spanish uses “the least important”, which I found interesting] you have done to me”). Now, I’ll save y’all the misery of reading my rehash of the full sermon, so I’ll just recount what I felt was one of the most important points, and which was certainly the point which resonated most with me. The pastor said that this text is not only directed at us as Christians individually. This text is directed at the Church collectively; the whole Church must be engaged in the work of love. But not only that; we are all responsible for making sure everyone else is engaging in this work. It is a work of mutual responsibility and accountability. I find this interpretation a beautiful call to action and a reinforcement of my calling to engage faith communities in social justice. Not only must I do good unto the least of these; I must encourage others to do the same. And it was well with my soul.
Then, communion. In my opinion, communion makes any worship service better (though I’m still not sold on the Catholic Styrofoam wafers and potent wine…kidding). I’m not going to re-rehash my understanding of communion, so if you want to read it, read my post “Communion as Common Union”. But what I will say is that partaking in the act of communion is a representation of community for me that I find spiritual enrichment from every time. Especially when, like this time, the pastor reminds us of where the communion elements came from and the various hands and elements that went into making them. I feel a sense of connection to other people and to God that is very specific to the moment of communion for me. And it was well with my soul.
Finally, after church, we had lunch for a fundraiser to buy some equipment. Being able to continue the act of symbolic communion (again, see “Communion as Common Union”) meant a lot to me on a day in which I was already feeling very spiritually connected with the other people of the congregation and with God. I sat and ate with a family from the church, and we talked as we ate (and there were babies!). This was community; this was communion. And it was well with my soul.