The demise of Up Town Church is never far from my thoughts these days. This was particularly true as Linda and I joined a circle of folks who are reading Jean Vanier’s book “Signs of the Times”. In the chapter we were discussing Vanier tells of a priest who heard the confessions of boys who confessed to telling lies to their fathers about their achievements at school. When asked why they lied they said that they were afraid of their fathers’ reactions. Vanier points out that this was a sacred moment because an environment was created in which these boys’ conscience could flower into confession. Because they had no fear of rejection or judgment they were able to bare their sin which otherwise would continue to fester.
My thoughts were drawn back to a dramatic illustration of the creation this very type of sacred space. We would always have a ‘sharing time’ and sometimes it could get quite protracted. Sermons needed to be crafted like accordions so they could be squeezed or stretched depending on the length of the sharing time. This particular night G. stood up to share. This was not unusual he had been a major contributor to these times over the past few months, but this night was different. As he stood tears welled up in his eyes and his voice shook. “I got my check this week and I blew it all!” This was not a rare story but the air crackled with anticipation that there was more to this story. “Last night … “ , he sobbed, “I blew it all on prostitutes….. I am so ashamed!” He stood there for a moment not knowing what our reaction would be to this revelation. In that moment I was filled with wonder, wonder at his courage and wonder that we were in an environment where this could be done. Where else I wondered could this happen? In a few seconds the room filled with noise as people got up from their seats and came and hugged G. and communicated beyond words that he was loved and valued. This was a tremendous healing moment for G. had spent his fortune looking for love that was now being so freely given by this wonderful collection of ‘broken people’.
I cannot remember what my sermon was about that night but I will always remember the beauty I saw that night. I can’t imagine someone making such a confession at our ‘usual’ Sunday morning services nor can I envisage such a tender and beautiful response. It has made hungry for that kind of sacred space, that kind of community. I cling to Jesus promise that the hungry will be satisfied but in the meantime I am restless.
I know I cannot expect to stumble across a community of the broken, I must be a part of intentionally creating this kind of community and sacred environment. I do not believe this is Quixotic but it is my quest.