Thankful for New Experiences: All Saints Day
This Sunday I went to church with my son and his family. My son pastors an Anglican congregation - St. Mary of Bethany's Parish in Nashville, Tennessee.
I'm not Anglican and (as my son knows) not really inclined toward liturgical worship style. But I enjoy visiting and worshiping at St. Mary's. I love to hear my son preach. And the congregation is full of warm and welcoming people.
This past weekend, I was in town and told my son I was planning to come to church. He explained that this Sunday would be a little different type of service because it was All Saints Day, a day in the church calendar to look back and remember the lives of those who have impacted our own for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.
One of the ways they would celebrate the day would be setting aside time for members of the congregation to share a brief memory of someone, whether living on earth or living with Jesus, who had shown them the love of Christ.
Confession #1: I was initially a little disappointed. Mom wanted to hear her son.
I didn't consider skipping the service if my son wasn't preaching because church is about Jesus, not who is speaking. And second only to that, I was really looking forward to being in church with my grandkids.
Confession #2: I don't feel nostalgia for my spiritual past. (I would never say that I could find nothing good in those years. It's simply that nostalgia is a warm and fuzzy feeling I just don't have, despite whatever silver linings were part of the clouds.) However, one thing I miss is worshiping with my family.
I used to go to church with my entire extended family as well as many lifelong friends I grew up with. (I guess that's one of the perks about a cult - said tongue in cheek.) But even though it's normal and healthy for families to be spread out and part of different church communities, there will always be a special gratitude in my heart for those occasions when I am blessed to worship with members of my family together in one setting. And there are not enough of those opportunities these days.
Well, with no specific expectation or anticipation, I went to church.
After singing and scripture readings, Danny invited anyone who wanted to speak to take the mic and briefly share about someone they wanted to honor on this day. I guess part of the reason I didn't feel an anticipation about this service was that it would be mostly people I didn't know talking about people I didn't know.
What a surprise it was to be so deeply touched by those who shared.
From the first speaker to the last, I felt a genuine connection with each person as I listened to what they shared about the people they honored. It didn't matter that they were people I didn't know. Each person helped me to know something personal about them in sharing stories of what it was that made these saints pivotal in their lives. It was also a reminder of the power we all have to impact those around us in meaningful ways that will linger and bear fruit long after we are physically absent from this earth.
I was touched. I was encouraged. I was inspired.
Thank you, members of St. Mary's. Thank you for sharing your heart with me Sunday. Thank you for always making me feel so warmly welcomed each time I visit. And, as a mom, thank you for loving my son and his family. I didn't speak Sunday. But if I had, I would have wanted to honor all of you.
Since there wasn't time for that in service, I'm doing it now.