Today was Ingathering and Water Communion Sunday. It was also my official welcome as the settled minister at All Souls.
The house was packed, the energy was great and, although it was a longer than usual service, it was awesome to hear the stories of water people brought back from their summer travels.
Many were from vacation spots but some were more poignant. A woman who brought water back from the place where she scattered her parents ashes, water from the Tigris River from a soldier home on R&R who will be returning to Iraq in several days.
In my sermon I talked about the hidden messages in water made famous by Japanese researcher Dr. Masaru Emoto and what the implications are of messages we tell ourselves about who we are as individuals and as a church. I ended by inviting people to come up and put a temporary tattoo on their body, using the commingled waters of the Water Communion to moisten the tattoos and stick them on. I had tattoos that said life, love, clarity, insight, growth, wholeness, forgiveness, respect, outreach, grace, respect, sharing, kindness.
It was a very fun, interactive service. I chose the word grace for my tattoo and placed it on my right wrist.
Afterward, a congregant asked if he could speak to me privately for a moment. I ushered him into my office and he started by praising the service, saying everything he loved about it. He was very gracious.
Then he said there was one thing that didn't sit well with him. During my sermon, I spoke of the belief some Christians have about their Communion called transubstantiation. This means they believe that during the consecration of communion the bread and wine become the literal body and blood of Jesus. I said something off the cuff, to the effect of how that kind of creeped me out.
This congregant told me that he thought that was disrespectful of Christianity and how we have a history of being inclusive of all, except for Christians.
As he spoke, I realized he was completely right. I would never have made a remark that judged indigenous spiritualities or Hinduism.
I apologized and told him it had been wrong of me to say that. I said it was ad-libbed and not reflective of the respect I feel for all religions, including Christianity.
I thanked him for coming in to talk to me about this and I really am glad he did.
As I drove home, I reflected on this exchange and realized that, by being willing to talk with me and not hold resentment in silence he enabled us to have a conversation. I learned something new today and while I regret the comment that precipitated the conversation, I'm grateful for the conversation. This is the kind of place I want All Souls to be known as-- a place where people can listen to one another and be heard and understood, where differences or disagreements don't mean division but rather an opportunity to stretch and grow.
I looked down at my tattoo: grace. That's what happened today in those brief moments in my office and that's what happens when we can acknowledge our mistakes and receive forgiveness and move on.
It was kind of cool to realize the message I had tattooed on my arm was already manifesting in the congregation. I am sure all the other messages we wrote on the body of All Souls today--messages of affirmation and growth-- are also already at work in our lives.
How exciting to be a part of the community. I look forward to a great future with them.