A Church A Night

I love churches so much, that I stayed overnight at Rutgers Church on Friday night.

I was a chaperone for the youth group, about 17 kids from ages 10 to 17, for a church lock-in. We played Charades, made candle holders, played whiffle ball. We sang together in the sanctuary with the lights off. (My kids and I tried to teach the group the song, “Sanctuary,” which we sing really well! Is that bragging? So be it.)

Our pastor Andrew spoke a little during the sanctuary time.  He had made barbed wire to show us and talk about. We discussed barbed wire’s purpose — to keep people and animals out. Andrew talked about growing up in a country surrounded by barbed wire.

He talked about how we have to be the candle light within the swirl of barbed wire.

“This is the symbol for the organization, Amnesty International. They take a stand for people who are in jail needlessly. The light means a lot to people who are living in barbed wire countries or who are living in barbed wire. We can be their light,” said Andrew.

When we blew out our candles we were asked to take the light within us. To keep a light for human rights burning. The fun of the sleepover, the depth of it shone through. The kids and parents are such a great group.

Church is community, I’m coming to see. It is not simply sitting alone in a dark place midday praying. It happens at night and when one is away from the sanctuary too. It happens when we try to take sanctuary with us, create it for ourselves, our neighbors, the world.

Taize Service & My Guys

Candle Lighting Service

The huge bells toll, ring, do all those verb-y things that huge bells do.

In the church, the brothers take the center aisle like NFL players taking the field. In their efforts to be humble, they are bigger than life. They walk to their usual seat or knee rest. Sometimes they go to a new spot on the center aisle, but usually they take the same spot, Brother Emile said.

Brother Emile, who is Canadian, is one of “my guys.” There are other brothers that I love – the tall one who served me communion, the Asian one who helped me change rooms, the one who leads Bible Study. The Bible Study Leader is Brother Wolfgang and he rides a bicycle to Tent F where the adults gather. I admit I have a weakness for bike-riding monks.

One of my friends said that Wolfgang was one of her guys until he stopped leading the Bible Study in English and just let it be simultaneously translated into English by a couple of German 20-something year olds. But she liked his grey hair.

One of the brothers is handsome in a Robert Redford kind of way. I think he may be in love with a dark-haired 20 year old German woman. As he processed by her last night, he coughed. Then, the dark-haired girl’s friend, the one with glasses, pinched the dark-haired girl. They practically swooned. The cough signified something. But what?

Something new happened towards the end of the service. Instead of processing out, some of the brothers stood like sentinels around the perimeter of the sanctuary. Why? The answer becomes clear as people approached them. It’s confession or a time for guidance.

I have to admit I went up to one brother that night. I will not tell you what we talked about. But when he lay his heavy hand on my head, I really felt blessed and protected.

Then the last night at Taize, after the service, Brother Emile is standing right next to me. And I feel sorry for him, because no one is coming up to him to ask for guidance or forgiveness, so I go to him. I ask him for blessings for our group’s travel. And he puts his hand on my head and says something about “Jesus, forgive your friend, Mary Beth.” And maybe that’s his standard prayer but I wasn’t asking for forgiveness. I did like that he said I’m a friend of Jesus’s though. And I wondered if I could Facebook friend Jesus, would I?