The Church of the Awakening: Services Begin Around 3:00am.
For the last ten months, I have been regularly attending a new church, and I venture to guess that many of you have too. Looking back, I have been a faithful member of this new church since I started teaching high school, and until an “Awakening” (pun intended) two weeks ago, I have never considered the dark still hours between 3:00am-5ish where I lay silently in my bed to be church. The pandemic coupled with my deep Franciscan roots have cracked open my understanding of church and transformed my perspective on the silent hours I spend in the Church of the Awaking with many of you.
Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr’s book The Universal Christ, beautifully explains that the universe-spanning, life giving Divine Presence of Christ is far too expansive to be contained in the single Body of Jesus the man. The Light and Divinity of Christ is “uncircumscribable by human boundaries” and seeing the Divinity of Christ in only the human life of Jesus is “like trying to see the universe with a too-small telescope.” Lying in my new Church of the Awakening in the middle of the night, it dawned on me that the boundaries of a building may also be far too small a telescope to use in understanding Church. Couple this with the cracking open of our understanding of what Church looks like in a pandemic (Zoom and YouTube services, driveby Communion, outdoor worship) and a large bright light transformed my sleepless night into a an emerging idea that I was a member of a new church where two or three (million) were gathered as they wrestled with deep truths that connect us across unlimited boundaries.
There is something expansive and connective about reimagining church in this way. The worries, excitements and to-do lists that stir me from sleep are universal in their power to stir all people from sleep. Four decades of people watching in church on Sunday mornings honed my skills to begin imagining all the people awakened by the same things as me at the exact same time in this new church. Familiar faces of family members and friends who I can not hug and hang out with in person are in this 3am service with me. My St. John’s family pass through my mind and the extended community family that my work connects me to each week are there too. Sometimes the very issues that jolt me out of sleep become faces who I imagine are in the “pew” with me at that very moment: BLM demonstrators, the freezing homeless lady I pass on 401 everyday, students stuck in a moment that they can’t get out of, prisoners, and isolated patients suffering from COVID. This new church is pretty full, fun, sad and crazy! If the expansiveness of my new church doesn’t exhaust me, then I move to prayer for each one of the members “assembled.” Prayer takes me outside of myself, connects me to something bigger than the ceiling I stare at and the only logical end to prayer is admitting that all of these people and issues are in God’s hands. This Knowing allows me to go in peace, back to sleep.
If you want to explore this idea a bit more you might love the session I attended at the FORMA Conference this week by Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers: When the Church Cracked Open . To learn more about Richard Rohr, this is a great introduction: Super Soul Sunday- The Universal Christ.