One thing they forgot to cover in Seminary is what to do when you’re leading a memorial service and someone lights a roman candle as a fiery tribute. Pretty sure I missed that seminar.
As I stood in the pavilion of our memorial service for our beloved neighbor, Nate, I remember my colleague telling me to “embrace the chaos.”
I remind myself, God works in the messiness of our existence.
Thankfully, God also creates beauty in the chaos.
Grief is a very personal and messy journey. It is not linear. Most days, our reactions do not make rational sense, and yet, whatever we are feeling is part of the process of healing. Unfortunately, for our people, grief has filled vast seasons of our neighbor’s life after a great loss or even after the experience of trauma. This is why we have taken intentional time to create space for sacred storytelling and goodbyes.
Our service for Nate was humbling. I heard our neighbors share stories about him that reminded me of the wisdom of the book of Ecclesiastes to embrace the life that God has given us and to be present and merry. It was important that these friends had a space to share, reflect, and cry together. We even had an opportunity to share an ice cream cake (one of Nate’s favorites). As a community, we cared for our mutual spiritual pain by being together in our mourning as we found ourselves in this moment of grief.
It was holy, even with the fireworks.
On Sunday at Street Church, we took time to reflect on Psalm 30. This is a classic “thanksgiving psalm” that has the famous line of “you turned my mourning into dancing (Ps. 30:11).” Rather than skipping right to dancing, we took time to focus on the lines just prior where the psalmist writes about being in the pit, and pleading with God to save his life (v.9-10) for God to be “our helper.”
This intimate plea seems to be universally human. We have all had these moments and some of us are still waiting for a rescue.
As the Chaplain, I have been asking the larger questions of how do we care for the spiritual care of our precious community from a trauma-informed perspective, when we know that some of us are still struggling in the “pits” of life? Taking it a step further, how do we challenge those who claim Street Church as their church home, to care for one another with their intimate experience of grief and loss?
I believe it starts with embracing our pain and joy as One body of Christ. When one person in the body hurts, we all hurt. When another celebrates, we all celebrate. If one of us leaves the Earth too soon, we take time to stop, reflect, and remember our friend.
These simple practices of joining our hearts and minds in prayer and worship are the baby steps that we are taking to bring our whole community together. Our community prayer is a liturgy of the people, calling to God to be our helper. There is redemption and healing happening on our holy grounds. Relationships being mended after years of history. People are growing as they recognize they are a part of something bigger than themselves. It is a sacred space that strives to build community resilience and restoration by simply letting people know, you are not alone.
We see this community of resilience being built when our Street Church leaders are stepping up to lead guest churches who are coming alongside to do ministry with us on Sunday morning. We give thanks for Ebenezer Methodist Church who worked with our team leaders “Bear,” Marvin and Brian as they led the set up, food teams, transportation and music on Sunday.
[Image: Marvin guiding the team]
[image: Allan Paquette leading music at Street Church from Ebenezer “Campfire Church”]
I see the Spirit moving when a newcomer, Pat, shared with me that she is ready to be more involved with church and could sense God calling out to her to be vulnerable enough to share her story so that she could find healing.
I see God calling the men of our group as our beloved minister “Bear” decided to start a men’s bible study under the trees of the canal path on Wednesdays at 10:00 AM that is open to the community. Others have shared that they are interested in doing something for their sphere of relationships to help and aid those still in the hard places of life.
[Image: Bear sitting and enjoying Street Church]
I see it as God is calling us to provide additional opportunities for worship mid-week which is why we are launching a mid-week Street Church worship service to launch next Thursday, July 8th (at Fredericksburg Baptist Church fellowship hall) where Street Church leaders will work alongside local churches to serve the Thursday night dinner from 5:00-6:00 and have a “dinner church” interactive worship service too. All are invited to “come and see” what the Lord is doing.
In our collective homily discussion, we reflected on the fact that it is okay to grieve and ask the hard questions. God holds us close even in moments of great pain and agony. We know this because God experienced the pain of the cross through the crucifixion and death of Jesus. God does not shy away from our burdens. Instead, God asks us to offer them up to the only One who can provide true peace and comfort in the unthinkable. When we offer our petitions and pain, God promises to help us through the journey and will help us turn our “mourning into dancing”…when we’re ready.
In the end, grief is a personal journey. It is also something we do not have to bear alone. It is a holy walk that requires trust and knowing that God is with us every step of the way. When we honor the process, we know that we will be made stronger and dance with the Divine in the end.
[image: Sunflower growing from the Micah Community Garden growing in partnership with Christ Lutheran]
May we have the courage to offer God our questions, our grief, and our pain, so that we can find peace in the divine presence of our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer who sits with us in the pit of our own shadows. Help us, Lord, as we build a community of spiritual resilience and strength as we lean on God, together as One body of Christ. Amen.
Written by Rev. Chelsea Morse, Community Ministries Chaplain at Micah Ecumenical Ministries. If you are interested in getting involved or supporting the ministry that happens at Street Church (on Sunday and beyond) you can reach out to Pastor Chelsea at chelsea.
Do Justice. Love Kindness. Walk Humbly with God.