[PFBC] Roundtable: What Is Progressive Religion?
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[PFBC] Christian worship, and final remarks

This morning's service was amazing. I don't know why I'm surprised; they've all been amazing. But I didn't expect the Christian worship to surprise me, because Christianity is such a dominant tradition that I presume I know all about it, and yet it did.

Three people had volunteered to create and lead the service: Mata H., Michelle, and Chris. But Chris got stuck in France, so Reverend Bruce graciously stepped in and lent a hand.

The liturgy was beautiful, and intriguing; some familiar language, some unfamiliar language. The calling of the angels, a piece contributed by independent Catholic seminarian Chris, was lovely and put me in mind of an invocational song I've encountered at Elat Chayyim. Michelle gave a fantastic sermon drawing on the story of Amos (this week's Hebrew Scriptures reading in the lectionary), inviting us to be ordinary prophets in the way that he was. [Edited to add:: it's now online here.]

Beforehand, Mata explained how the service had come together and how it would go. She spoke about the eucharist as the central moment in Christian worship, and about how the folks running the service felt about it. Their theology was one of radical inclusion; anyone who felt comfortable partaking was welcome to do so, and anyone who didn't want to partake but wanted a blessing was welcome to that too.

In silence, Reverend Bruce uncovered the bread and the cup of juice. He tore the loaf into pieces. We passed the peace -- which turned out to be hugs all around! -- and then he invited anyone interested to come up for communion, which was simple and startlingly beautiful. I think a lot of us were moved by it, in ways we didn't expect to be.

I want to thank the creators and leaders of the service for putting it together, for leading it with such spirit, and for opening the door to such a deep encounter. I want to thank Reb Arthur too for adding a drash on the relationship between lechem and milchamah, "bread" and "war," and for offering his blessing...


Afterwards, in the closing circle, we each spoke about what we hope to bring away from the weekend, what we will cherish most about our time together. Several people mentioned the worship: how unprecedented they found it that we planned to pray together despite our differences, and how astonished and moved they were when it worked. A few people commented that after the worship we experienced this weekend, they felt hope for the first time that the world really can be repaired.

Having "ecumenical" worship -- which is to say, worship rooted in Judaism, in Buddhism, in Islam, and in Christianity, but open to the greater community which we form together -- was the dream for this weekend that I cherished most...and I don't think I realized how radical an intention it was. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't understand what a crazy idea it was! It required us to take a profound risk together -- the risk of being vulnerable to and with one another, in the presence of what I call God -- and against all odds, we all did, and it was truly transformative.

I will write more about this one of these days. For now -- my deepest and most heartfelt thanks go to everyone who midwifed this gathering into being, and to everyone who joined us in making the dream a reality. This is only a beginning; may we be blessed by our encounters, and go on from here to further beautiful things.

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