Amazing Grace

Church altar - pipe organ pipes in background, with a cross hanging in front of it. Altar in front of pulpit with open Bible, cross, flowers and communion chalice. Table says This Do in Remembrance of Me.

By the end of the service I was at the altar.

For this quiet, introverted middle-aged believer, that’s rare.

I have deep faith, but I rarely demonstrate it outwardly.

So, me…at the altar…

It’s happened before, but it doesn’t happen often.

Let me back up and talk a bit about what led me down the aisle and onto my knees.

Last week was crazy and emotional.

The aftermath of the church shooting in South Carolina, the political discord in our nation around Supreme Court rulings, the continued reports of unrest around the world – it all weighed heavily on me as I came to worship on Sunday.

This week in my Summer Itinerancy 2015 I visited Trinity United Methodist Church in Fairmont West Virginia. (You can read about my journey here.)

Trinity is the smaller of two churches on a two-point charge. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in warmth, authenticity and unhurried grace. I visited this congregation back in the fall when members celebrated the church’s 145th anniversary. (I wrote about that experience and you can read it here.)

Fewer than 20 of us, including the pastor, attended worship on Sunday, but the sanctuary felt full in other ways – full of hospitality and the Holy Spirit

The order of worship was traditional in its simplicity and struck a respectful, contemplative atmosphere. We sang and prayed – and even sang the Lord’s Prayer – before passing the peace and gathering in a circle next to the altar to lift our joys and concerns and to share how things were with our souls.

There was no rush.

We took our time.

We held hands.

We spoke up as the Spirit moved us.

Some asked to be anointed, so we all helped with the laying on of hands and lifted the individuals in prayer.

Then came the scripture reading and the sermon.

The pastor talked about the week’s lectionary reading from Mark 5:25-34.

In this passage, Jesus is on the move and in great demand.

In the midst of a crowd, a woman quietly touches the hem of his robe.

She needs healing, but does not presume to ask for it out loud.

Instead she reaches out, believing that just touching his robe will be enough.

Despite her quiet approach, he notices her.

He speaks to her.

He heals her.

He notices, speaks and heals – but she made the first move.

She reached out.

The pastor points out that we sometimes seem afraid to “bother” Jesus.

We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves.

We don’t reach out.

But we should.

We should reach out – either boldly or quietly.

Jesus will respond the same.

He will notice us, speak to us, and heal us.

It had been a crazy week.

But the welcome, the prayer, the sermon, the sense of connection with those in that sanctuary – they all encouraged me to be quietly bold.

They encouraged me to boldly walk down that aisle and quietly take a few moments at the altar.

I was not alone.

Others knelt next to me.

I found quiet time in prayer with a hand on my shoulder and the Spirit in my soul.

We ended our worship time by singing Amazing Grace.

I sang it.

I felt it.

Thank you, Trinity UMC.

Thank you, Jesus.

Angel made from hymnal pages - placed in front of a stained glass window.

 

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