On the RevGals facebook page an idea was shared for a meaningful and engaging way for congregations to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. I hate it when a good idea goes to waste, so I decided to employ the project at the church where I was filling in yesterday. I've been there several times and have built a bit of a relationship with church members, so felt safe departing from a standard homily on this occasion.
The project is known as Star Words. The concept is that a variety of words are written singly on paper cut out in the shape of stars. Each person draws a star and carries the word with them through the year to consider, reflect upon, and in whatever other ways occurs to them, draws inspiration and meaning. I drew on the transformative beginning that the Star of Bethlehem was to the world into which Jesus was born, and invited the congregation to consider how the use of their word, led by the light of Christ and the Spirit of God, might be transformative for them.
It was a fun and interesting exercise. Nearly everyone who came to church took a star, (two teenage boys were the lone abstainers). The responses ranged from quiet, knowing smiles, to tilted heads of puzzlement, to bright grins and enthusiastic sharing on the spot. Only one woman, the last to draw from the basket, said, "Music?" As the remaining participant I offered her the option of drawing a different star, but she adamantly stuck to her original, claiming that it would be interesting to discover how a renewed awareness of music might work its way into and through her life.
Most touching was the woman who looked at her star and clutched it to her chest with a sense of disbelief. She began to make utterances, not really sure what to say, until at last she whispered, "I can't believe it!" I asked her if she was willing to share the word she now held protectively in her hand, and she turned it to me and spoke the word. "Healing." Grasping for composure, she glanced toward the ceiling, tears beginning to form. "You don't know..." she began. Indeed, I didn't! Then she took a few quieting breaths and shared with the three of us who surrounded her that she might be facing the recurrence of cancer. Just, wow. I am happy to report that earlier today I had an email from this church member, sharing the news that the biopsy performed returned negative. She is eager to live with her word and discover how else it might play out in the year ahead. I am grateful to have shared that small moment with her, the kind of moment I miss no longer serving regularly in a parish.
As for me, I drew the word competence. It was funny. When I was typing the words into the stars to print out and came to this one I was intrigued by its inclusion in the list and wondered how it would be received by the person who drew it. It is actually synchronicitous (I think I just made that word up) for me as I live into a new line of work without vast experience on which to draw as I move forward into a life of canine massage. I felt very competent as a parish priest, in spite of circumstances that led me from that work. That said, however, the experience of that change was damaging to my confidence in general. Believing in myself, and feeling competent, has been a bit squishy during the last few years. I am grateful, beyond words, that in recent months I have received affirmation from several quarters, but reclaiming my confidence and competence is a work in progress that requires some propping up.
So, competence and I are keeping company this year. And like my new friend experiencing healing, it will be interesting to see where this journey winds.
How about you, would you like a word?