28 October 2018, written by Sue Sturman
Building Stones: The Christian Community
I have attended many churches in my time…..lots of us have done this. We move, we find a new church community. And we come from disparate origins:
I’m a cradle Episcopalian, though neither of my parents were. My dad was a non-practicing Lutheran, and my mom’s mother was a non-practicing Jew and her dad a non-practicing Italian Catholic. She ended up in the Episcopalian church because that’s where her aunt brought her for preschool play groups, or so the story is told. Community.
I have sung in the choirs of St Stephen’s Church, Port Washington NY; Old First Church, Cambridge; the American Cathedral in Paris; Grace Church Brooklyn; St James’ Church, Manhattan, and here at All Saints, Brookline. With the American Cathedral choir I sang at Christ the King church in Frankfurt, a church within the Convocation of Episcopal churches in Europe. I have visited other Convocation churches in Rome and in Florence. And now with the new year my husband and I will be moving on to yet another community, back to Paris where I will join my daughter back in the choir at the Cathedral there.
We’ve been here at All Saints for over 9 years. Moving is a huge upheaval. But when I find myself in any of these churches, I have a really fundamental sense of home. It grounds me. I understand these places. They resonate with the intentionality of the prayers and the creed and the sacraments. As Richard said in his evensong homily last Sunday, they are bound, at least in part, by our wonderful Book of Common Prayer. But most of all they resonate with the community that fills them and that sustains them.
There is something ineffable about the moment when we kneel or stand and confess our sins against God and our neighbor….together. Out loud. Witnessing and being witnessed by our neighbors. Fulfilling our baptismal promise to hold one another to the commitment to walking in the Way Christ showed us.
Church buildings can be deceiving. It is easy to enter a beautiful, majestic, or even humble church and think: Ah, this is the religion. It’s a building with stained glass and a big cross and fine altar linens and carved wooden pews. It’s something ‘not-me’. It stands whether I am here or not, it doesn’t really need me.
I think this is false, and only an illusion. While I have my doubts, my reservations about certain dogmas of ours (and other) organized religions, there is something truly everlasting about church. And it’s not the buildings. It’s not the prayers. It’s not (dare I say it) not even the readings from the bible.
No, it’s the community of people who find one another in the darkness of our separate humanity, seeking light, seeking illumination, seeking shelter and warmth and seeking ways to offer shelter and warmth to others. It’s people coming together to join their intentions to a higher purpose than their own individual lives. It is people seeking to follow Christ’s path towards Godhead. Community.
Community is the true building of the church: the bricks that build up lives of intention and integrity, together. Mortared with compassion and love. Lit with inspiration and hope. Sometimes washed with tears of joy or sorrow….other times washed with water and elbow grease. And the occasional spilled lemonade.
We come together to seek shelter, to hold one another up, to hear and to be heard. To serve and to be served. Community.
In invite you, during the Peace, to consider whether your neighbor will be leaving it to you to provide the financial means to support this community in its life together. Or whether you plan to leave it up to them. And I invite you to consider that each one of us are the bricks and the mortar of this community, and that the extent to which we have been served by this community, and the extent to which we wish to serve, should direct our commitment to stewardship.