My blog celebrates “writing, reading, and life” and mostly I focus on things writerly and readerly. This week, however, has been firmly grounded in life. Like many of you, I have been grieving over the state of our nation at this present moment. There is just so much hurt and bitterness and anger and racism and misunderstanding. And this week’s news breaks my heart – two black men shot and killed by police in Louisiana and Minnesota and five police officers shot and killed in Dallas? Will this ever end? Is reconciliation possible? And what can I do? What can my children do? What can you do? What can we as individuals do in the midst of this miserable time?
Foster community. Build community. Construct bridges. That’s what. This Sunday morning, in an act that is totally out of my shy/reserved comfort zone, I listened to that inner voice inside which whispered to me – reach out. What we did this morning was very small, but it’s a step.
First, Miss A. and I woke up very early and baked cookies – lemon sugar cookies. Once they cooled, we decorated each one with a little pink icing heart and placed them attractively in a box. Then we prayed that God would bless our morning call. (After all, I think He’s the one who prompted the whole thing.)
Then, instead of going to service at our regular church, we drove to the charmingly steepled church near us that is home to a predominantly African-American congregation. Neither Miss A. nor I knew a soul. Nevertheless, we climbed those stairs with our cookies and our courage. I felt a little nervous, but I needn’t have.
What a wonderful morning it was! The love and grace of that congregation filled the sanctuary. As we sang hymns in unison, I felt God’s very presence. I wondered how I would let them know the reason for my visit, or if I even should. The answer came with the morning announcements. Since we were clearly visitors, the pastor welcomed us. Then he asked if I had a greeting or a word to share. My shyness threatened to take over, but I didn’t let it. With a slightly shaky voice, I briefly spoke what was on my heart – that with all that’s going on in our country – the hurt, the killings, the divide, that I felt the Spirit’s prompting to step outside my normal routine and reach out in this way. I added that I had also been prompted to bake cookies – and everyone laughed. I loved that.
The whole service was a blessing, but my favorite part was the altar call. We all – everyone of us – formed a circle in the center aisle. Then holding hands and leaning hearts and minds towards the altar, we prayed. We prayed for peace and reconciliation for our country; we prayed for those who are hurt and grieving or ill; we prayed for hope and we affirmed that God is a God of life and that killing and hurting our fellow humans is not part of God’s plan for us. And we thanked God for His love and grace.
Afterwards, we enjoyed cookies in the parish hall. I had a chance to talk and make more connections. One of the parishioners even said that the morning was like a breath of fresh air! It was and I think we all needed it. When it was time to go, we were invited back anytime. And we will be back… because we are community and we need to come together and support each other. Cookie by cookie, step by step.
My parting thought today, both for myself and for you, is what can I/you do this week to build bridges instead of walls, love instead of hate, and understanding instead of misunderstanding? It doesn’t have to be anything big or complicated. It can be as easy as… baking cookies.
God bless you!