July 11, 2012
Dance? Why would we want to dance?
Our preacher at the Community Eucharist this morning said,
“Benedict would say this is not so. To be Christian is to engage in a dance. To be Anglican is to engage in a dance.”
She was talking about the kind of radical hospitality practiced by the people who live according Saint Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries; he kind of hospitality that greets every guest the way that we would greet Jesus if he came to our door.
Still don’t see how dancing fits in?
If we greeted Jesus at the door we would expect that his presence in our midst would change us. We would be excited about that possibility. In fact we come to church on Sunday morning longing to be changed by his presence. What would it look like if we expected to be changed. What would it look like if we were excited about the possibility, even longed for the opportunity to be with our guests so that in the dance of give and take, of sharing and interacting, we might be changed, might grow, might learn?
What would that look like for us at Saint Andrew’s? Let me paint a picture for you.
We might change our Sunday morning schedule in the hope that having everyone: children, youth and adults in formation classes at the same time, and allowing everyone the opportunity to worship together would deepen our common life and prayer.
Seeing the growing number of young families and children on Sunday morning, and knowing that our music program is one of the gifts we have to offer we might decide to start our Sunday morning Church School with Music with Mr. Stancer. Fifteen minutes of singing songs, hymns, and psalms. We might use that opportunity to do some music education, helping our children to understand the importance of music and hymnody in our faith. We might even adjust the age requirements for the Choristers, our children’s choir, so that more of our Church School kids would have a liturgical outlet for the music skills they are acquiring.
Being involved in that dance would mean that every year we checked in with the poeple in the program. Does this schedule still work? Is there something we need to tweak? Is there something we need to add or to stop doing? Being involved in the dance would mean that we stayed on the first floor for more than one number.
Seeing that there are lots of mothers who bring the children to Sunday School who need a place to connect with one another and with the rest of the parish we might offer space in the Rector’s office for a Sunday Morning Women’s Spirituality Group. And when the needs of that group change and it morphs into a group for mom’s with babies we would smile an embrace that change too!
Being involved in that dance, you know, the one that changes everyone who is willing to get on their feet and venture onto the dance floor, might also lead us to start a “Young Families Night” where people whose lives tend to be centered around work and caring for their young children, poeple who don’t often get to socialize at coffee hour because after a long morning their kids are ready to go home, people who really need a way to be in relationship with folks who share their needs and concerns, can come be together and develop and nurture relationships in the church. We might even learn from them that they can’t participate as easily if it is pot luck. “Life is busy enough. I can’t possibly make a casserole or salad to take to a church dinner tonight!” And we might set the evening up as a gift to them, organizing, arranging and hosting so that they can share in our community and share with us.
Being involved in that dance might mean recognizing that we have a lot of single people and people whose partners don’t attend Saint Andrew’s who would love to gather in a context that doesn’t assume that everyone comes two by two, and working to creat an opportunity for them to tell their stories to one another and to us.
Being involved in that dance might mean that we begin a Men’s Ministry and structure it in such a way that guys who are new to the parish, new to the Episcopal Church, even Guys who don’t come on Sunday but are curious about the church that their wives attend can feel comfortable and participate.
So I stirred the pot a little today. We are having a conversation about the church on a national, and international level and I shared that here. It raised some concerns and questions, questions that I hope we can address without anxiety or fear. How do we practice the kind of radical hospitality that the Benedictines practice? How do we engage with people so that we are open to the things that they have to tell and to teach us?
Saint Andrew’s is better at this than most places I know and I am not suggesting that we install power point projectors, drop down screens, and a drum kit in the sanctuary. I am however suggesting that we should be saying the opening collect that we used this morning to honor the feast day of Benedict of Nursia. There are people in or pews whose stories we haven’t listened to, who have things to tell us about their experience of God and the Holy. We need to be willing to dance with them the same way that we long to dance with Jesus.
As our preacher told us this morning:
“The prayer to be like Benedict will shatter our well-drawn boundaries, it breaks our hearts, it grows our capacity to love and to fail, and sends us humble as beggars into the arms of Jesus and the arms of the stranger. It is a dangerous prayer. Pray it anyway. And then watch out. God might just give you what you prayed for.”
It is a dangerous prayer. Please join me in praying it anyway.
The Collect for the Feat of Benedict of Nursia
Almighty and everlasting God, your precepts are the wisdom of a loving Father: Give us grace, following the teaching and example of your servant Benedict, to walk with loving and willing hearts in the school of the Lord’s service; let your ears be open to our prayers; and prosper with your blessing the work of our hands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.