As we continue our discussion of our vision of the future church we welcome Stephanie Levan and her vision:

Here at McCormick, we worship together on a weekly basis.  Our worship is held in the common room, which is transformed from classroom to sanctuary every Wednesday afternoon and the lobby into a cafeteria for a community meal.  Recently, in honor of Maundy Wednesday/Thursday, our worship leaders decided to have the meal during the service rather than afterwards.  This set-up combined with a sermon that encouraged and provided ample time for a fruitful discussion, sparked my interest in sharing this particular blog.  At the end of the service we sang, “I Need You to Survive,” and it was one of the more moving experiences I’ve had in worship in quite awhile.

Here are the lyrics that struck me the most:

“I pray for you, you pray for me
I love you, I need you to survive
I won’t harm you with words from my mouth
I love you, I need you to survive”

Simple enough, right?

…and yet there is something so profound there — hidden among the simple words that were sung.

This song is about sharing:

the sharing of self.

Today’s churches offer many different things: refuge, beauty, education, help, support, programming, financial assistance, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. In my own church, every Sunday many people attend worship services in the morning. They smile. They ask the standard questions and make the standard comments: ‘How are you this morning?’ and ‘Good to see you this morning’. And while there is nothing really wrong with this line of standardization, I wonder what it might be like if we actually stopped and listened to the person we were conversing with. What if we actually listened for the answer, and sought to share part of ourselves with them as well …  in this community where we are taught that we are all people seeking redemption and salvation.

In Anne Jackson’s book, Permission to Speak Freely, she speaks of the gift of going second. The gift of sharing a piece of your story, your vulnerability or brokenness, first … and allowing that vulnerable piece of yourself be an invitation for the other person to share their own struggle.

If you’ve ever had that nagging feeling of struggle, discontentment, or even discombobulation of the mind or soul, then you know what I’m talking about. The gift that someone gives to you of sharing their stories of faith and struggle is sacred. This gift can give you the relieving ability to share your own story. On the flip side, I’ve had this gift shared with me, and then not taken advantage of it. Someone has shared their story with me and I have listened intently and still been reluctant to share my own story.  Why?

Where does that fear come from?  Where do we learn this?  How can we reconcile this as a community of faith?

Start sharing. Start sharing your story with your sisters and brothers. Share your joys and share your concerns. Laugh when you’re happy and cry when you’re sad. Allow others to help and support you. Ask challenging questions. Accept the love that is available around you. Take risks. Do what you need to do … but start sharing. Your openness might be the doorway to another person’s path to healing. How wonderful would it be to worship in a space where we can truly bring all of our struggles to our God, alongside our neighbors?

My challenge for myself and you, dear reader, is to start small. Share with one person. Reflect. Support. Share again. Come. Come unguarded in the presence of your God and allow your brothers and sisters to share in your sorrows and rejoicing.

Wouldn’t this be a great vision of the church for the future?  A place where we can share freely and without fear of judgement or condemning … a place of love, warm welcome, and invitation.  This is the church I long for …. and this is the safe space we can all start creating.

“you are important to me,
I need you to survive….”

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