April 29, 2015

The Sacrament of the Nametags

This post is also available in Spanish here.

Third Sunday is mash-up Sunday at St. Mary’s. We bring together all three of our Sunday worshipping groups -- from our two English and one Spanish service -- plus Trinity Church, our neighbor congregation, with whom we share our associate priest. They have an English and a Spanish service, too. The third-Sunday service is bilingual, and we do an interactive sermon with the children at the center of the action.

The reading was about the resurrected Jesus greeting the disciples, “Peace be with you.” Nancy Frausto, my co-conspirator in the shared Trinity-St. Mary’s ministry, talked with the kids about peace. They practiced passing the peace, which even one-year-olds can get pretty excited about. Then they handed out nametags. They invited the people of the five services of St. Mary’s and Trinity to greet one another by name at the passing of the peace.

The name-tagging process was awkward. We ran out of tags and had to rummage the office cabinets for more. There were not quite enough markers. Some of the kids were a little confused about their helper roles. It began to look like it was going to take a while. Very quietly, the organist began to play “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

From my vantage point at the front of the church, I watched chaos become sacrament. The music gathered and settled the beautiful people of our congregation as they sorted out their nametags. The diligence with which they did their part for this small experiment in community building moved me. Nothing about this has been easy. Longtime members of both Trinity and St. Mary’s are grieving, looking ahead to prospects of still greater loss to come. New neighbors have joined us on this journey, bringing their own losses and fears. We are awkward with each other; worried about how there can possibly be room for all of us at the new table we are building together.

There is no romance and very little magic in the work of being multicultural, multilingual church. There is hard work and resistance and misunderstanding and mutual suspicion. At our best, we try small things like greeting each other by name, using old nametags we found in the back of the closet. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Not magic, but holy.

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