One of our darling littlest cherubs came up to me after the Nine O’clock service on Sunday and whispered, “Why’d you cry in church?” She had on a fabulous purple dress, much more fabulous than this one but you get the idea:
I said something like, “Because (as happens at All Saints’ every year on this MLK Sunday) the ladies of the Singing Sisters of Ebenezer sang songs I love and it made me cry.” And it is true, I love spirituals, and this past Sunday I loved the old songs and the power and beauty and dignity in the faces of the singers. Here are the Sisters leading the congregation in” Blessed Assurance”
At my ordination almost 28 years ago, the very same Laura English Robinson who directs the Singing Sisters sang “This Little Light of Mine”. , and here she was—same holy space, beloved people, same hopeful song—all these years later!
I was overwhelmed by the pain and joy of history—my own history, All Saints’ history, Ebenezer’s history, Martin Luther King’s history, our country’s history—and tears started sliding down my face and never stopped. I re-membered (put back together) a lot, which is what Jesus asks us to do in every eucharist—”Do this in re-membrance of me.” Re-membering is huge. And sometimes grievous.
People who are grieving have sometimes told me “O I can’t come back to church yet because I am afraid I’ll cry like a baby.” May I gently question this reasoning? Is crying in church a bad thing? What are you supposed to do in church? Put on a happy face? I don’t think so. Now I must admit, weeping in church when you are trying to offer communion is a little over the top! And also very human and around this block we are very human—all sorts and conditions! This fully human-ness is the gift in Jesus Christ we have to give one another and to the world.
Everybody has to find their way to have more abundant life. About two months ago, my husband talked me into trying TWITTER. Not to tweet! But to get a sense of how news and experiences and emotions of all kinds move around this world in 140 character waves which can gather and become combative or healing (sometimes both) forces of nature in and of themselves. I tried if for a little while and realized, nope, this tweeting thing doesn’t work for me. I jump to conclusions or I dismiss something someone says just because that person tweets it or I get mad or sad (more often than glad) in ways that are not lifegiving. Basically tweeting is too often a snarky medium. Instead give me just plain old conversation. Give me that little girl coming up to me and saying “Why’d you cry?” Our questions, our very differences, when gently offered help us connect. It’s true! So no more twitter for me.
Back to crying in church … yes I cry in church. Not all the time though, come to think of it, I cried solid in church for about six weeks after my father died in the fall of 1996.
As I grieved for my father so many years ago, my fellow priests took on all the public roles in the liturgies and I hid in the choir loft amongst all those red-robed cherubim who just kept on singing gorgeous music. I cried for my beloved father who had in fact peacefully lived out the length of his days and surely I also cried for the accumulated trauma of all the deaths I had known and of course I cried (though I didn’t sense it) for my own death to come. For every mourning is also a mourning for oneself. I cried week after week. And then eventually, cried out, I healed and in time stood and took up my life and my work again.
Cry in church any old time you need to. Or even better laugh! Around this block just let us be ourselves before God and love ourselves and our neighbors in our full humanity and see what blessings come.