Between Two Worlds Day 40 (of 40)
I arrived about fifteen minutes early for the rehearsal to the Good Friday Ecumenical Service held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Grants Pass. Father Todd was meeting with one of the other participants but I wanted to have a little quiet space to myself. Dismissing myself I said, “I’ll just spend a little time in the chapel until everyone else arrives.” “Good idea,” replied Father Todd, “since you are the keynote preacher it might be nice to gather your thoughts.”
Just around the corner from the sanctuary was a small chapel, nearly a copy of the rectangular sanctuary, but 1/20th the size. Eight dinky pews, four pews per side, that were only big enough for two Mama Bear-sized people or three skinny teenagers. I sat in the front pew as close to the wall as possible so as to avoid any unnecessary detection from worshipers filing in early.
Immediately it hit me as I sat there. I felt known in the miniaturized space. As I reflected on so much of what has emerged in our conversation I imagined having a space very much like this right in the middle of downtown Portland or some busy business and retail district. I wondered how such a space would transform the feeling and spirit of a place if right where people were the busiest and most harried there was a dinky little chapel that invited people, “Come, sit, and be.” I wondered what kind of miracles might take place if ten or fifteen people (the chapel only held sixteen) gathered in that space and shared stories, prayed, cried, laughed, and really came to know each other.
Just next door to this chapel was the much larger sanctuary–also beautiful and inviting in its own way. But it was easy to distinguish how each space made me feel. In the larger space I was afforded anonymity. I could sit in one of forty pews among a hundred plus people and hide away in my own little private world. In the smaller chapel the anonymity was lost, but a delicious intimacy was floating in the air. There I felt known.
We finished our Good Friday services and I walked a few blocks to get some lunch before preparing for the evening’s Good Friday service at another church. Just before finishing my lunch a young man sat next to me while getting some take out containers. With an overly enthusiastic tone he said, “Hi Debbe,” to the waitress and she mimicked the same cheerful enthusiasm shooting back, “Well hello there, Steven.” Steven got his take out containers and Debbe sent him on his way saying, “There you go, love” and he smiled broadly and said, “Thank YOU, love.” On the way back to his table I heard him tell his table mate, “She called me love.” I laughed at his innocence and delight.
Debbe leaned over to me and said, “I just met Steven yesterday. When he came into today I said, ‘Hi Steven’ which just shows how much of an impression he made on me with the dozens of people I meet every day. And Steven said, ‘And you’re Debbe, right?'”
This scene is probably repeated hundreds of times every day across the country in some establishment or another. But just after having come from my experience in the little chapel it struck me how powerful it is to be known. I felt it in the intimacy of that chapel and Steven and Debbe were nearly giddy with having each other know, recognize, and remember their names from a one-time meeting from the day before. It was a minor moment with a major message.
As a pastor I spend the first two months in any new call simply trying to remember people’s names. People think that I have a knack for remembering names, but I don’t think it’s some special gift. I think it’s just that I know how important it is be known and to be called by name. So I work at it.
It’s a big scary world out there sometimes. There are more than seven billion people in the world. And most of us on this side of the ocean are traveling 100 mph doing “very important” things.
Isn’t it nice when just one person knows, really knows who you are?