This past week has provided me with two powerful worship experiences. On Sunday, I was officially installed at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square, the parish where I serve as their administrative assistant. On Monday, I was part of a healing service that I helped plan with my dear friend.
When you spend as much time in chapel as seminarians tend to do, it can be hard to have your spirit feel fed. I know for myself worship has felt an awful lot like business this semester. I’m taking a course on worship, and I find myself examining the execution services; Did the pastor hold her arms out when she greeted the congregation? Is the sermon based on the lectionary? How does the assembly dispose of the left-over sacramental elements? Add to these questions that fact that I have spent the last six weeks scouting congregations to complete my field work at next year, and it can be hard to set aside business and just worship.
So imagine my surprise when I was nurtured at the two services that were actually supposed to be work.
I had never planned a worship service before, and I was more than a little terrified for Monday. I was fortunate to be working with someone I trust a great deal. We planned this service with the intention that we would create awareness for sexual and domestic assault survivors. This is a subject that hits very close to home. In my own healing and work with survivors I have longed to be a part of service that did not back down from naming the evil that is assault. I give thanks to my friend who knows that finding a voice for survivors in worship is important to the ministry of our church. I also give thanks that our preacher on Monday was a pastor who did not try to dress up “sexual assault and domestic violence” with ambiguous and flowery words but to name it as it is. Because we were able to name the evil, we created a space where people felt safe to come forward and receive healing for all sorts of pain, assault and beyond. As I and three others sang “Grace Like Rain,” almost every person in the assembly went to prayer stations and were anointed. I felt my knees buckle at the magnitude of our communities openness to feel God’s love for them. The Holy Spirit was truly present in that place, and in that moment there was no doubt that the gospel reached our community. I will carry the feeling of that day in my heart forever.
I will also carry the memory of being installed at St. Luke’s with me forever. I loved working for Pilgrim UCC, loved how I was stretched and grew within that community. I learned that God was calling me into pastoral ministry because of Pilgrim, and there will never be a time when I will forget that it was that environment that nurtured the journey I am on today. But standing up in front of a new body of believers and committing myself to service in them in light of the scriptures and our shared Lutheran confessions solidifies my sense of vocation in a way that I cannot explain. God has called me to the Lutheran church because God wants me to bear witness to our confessional doctrine that we are justified by grace through faith in Christ without works righteousness. I can live out that vocation and discover what sort of leader I am being called to be in a Lutheran church in a way that I cannot live out in a different denomination. It is one thing to say theoretically that I will uphold Lutheran confessional doctrine, but it is something else entirely to make that promise publicly before God and witnesses. Making such promises makes my position not just a job, but a relationship. It is humbling to realize that I have been invited into this relationship, and that God will continue to invite me into relationships in future communities.
It is a miraculous thing to be a part of a profession where doing your work enriches your spirit, and I give thanks that I can experience such miracles.