December 12, 2012


I’m not sure the Bible mentions the word pluck (other than a few pesky references to removing one’s eye), but Jesus is clear time and again that his followers should exhibit the values imbued in the word.

Trusty Webster defines pluck as a “courageous readiness to fight or continue against odds. Dogged resolution.”

Doomsday scenarios have the church withering on the vine, with statistics showing steep declines in the participation of organized religion. These numbers are sobering and should be cause for serious reflection and change. But I worry we’ll stew so long, that we will see the challenge is too big, that we miss wonderful opportunities in our own communities to be the church for which God is calling us and people are hungry.

Here’s a story of one plucky congregation. 

Grace Church in Cincinnati has a beautiful facility, with gorgeous stone arches and exquisite stained glass windows. (See for yourself in this virtual tour). It has, as real estate folks might say, great bones. What it didn’t have was flesh for those bones. 

For myriad reasons, the congregation had dwindled to a handful of faithful. 

In 2007, the congregation started an experimental healing service that combines traditional Christian healing rites with African drumming and Reiki. Working with Episcopal Healing Ministries and a local group called Rhythms for Wellness, the worship leaders continued to refine the format. Hawley Todd, the executive director of Episcopal Healing Ministries – and a member of that church, developed a liturgy built from the Book of Occasional Services, and the Irish and New Zealand books of common prayer. Its purpose was to welcome seekers and people of all faiths. 

Today, the monthly healing service attracts 50+ participants, with people coming and going from 7:00 pm until 10:30 or later. Often area college students start filtering in after 9:00 pm. 
The healing service has become such a balm for the community – and the congregation – that they constructed a similar Sunday morning service that is offered monthly as well. 

And word has spread about this service, which invites all to the altar and creates space for healing, reflection and connection. 

This fall, a United Church of Christ congregation began offering the liturgy. A Lutheran church two hours south has started one as well. And a Presbyterian congregation four hours north plans to begin in the spring. 

This congregation is taking its best gifts of healing and hospitality and sharing them not only with the local neighborhood but also with the wider community of followers of Christ. They could have succumbed to woe-is-me and faded gently into that good night. 

But instead they reached in and up and discovered a relentless courage, a dogged resolution, a faith in the possibility of new birth and new life. 

They found their pluck.

Want to learn more about this service? Contact Hawley Todd at