Lady Gaga burst out onto the stage at a show in 2010 saying, “ALL YOU FREAKS AND LITTLE MONSTERS, THIS IS FOR YOU!!!” The crowd went wild. Electric energy filled the air. “ALL YOU WHO WERE TOLD YOU DIDN’T FIT IN, THIS IS FOR YOU!!” The roar of the crowd surrounded the TD Garden Hall in Boston and reverberated off the walls and ceiling and she began, “Ra-ra-ra-ra-ra! I want your ugly, I want your disease –– I want your everything, as long as it’s free –– I want your love!”
*contains adult language and themes*
And I thought: My God. Isn’t this like church!? Thousands in one place leaning in, offering their messy bits with the hope of being seen, accepted, reconciled. What glory. What grace. What God.
The next day, I was sitting on the field at Tanglewood, and Carole King and James Taylor opened with music that soothed and sang to my soul. Folks had set up picnic blankets and elaborate charcuterie with meat and cheese boards and wine and double candlesticks. They dragged in the chairs that were comfortable for them and sat on the grass, soaking in music and singing along to each other and to the world in concert voices: “Winter, Spring, Summer or fall … all you’ve got to do is call! And I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah –– You’ve got a friend.”
And I thought: My God. Isn’t this like church!? Thousands in one place leaning in, offering their hopeful bits with the hope of connecting, loving, helping. What glory. What grace. What God.
We need both of these varieties of church. The electric energy of change, and the comfort. The challenge of the new, and the known of what we’ve always done. The shift, change, and different, and the rituals that ground and hold us in our memory. Sometimes it happens in different communities in the same town; sometimes it’s even in the same service.
Sparking Ministry Conversations
What are the comforting rituals and songs of old that bring back nostalgia?
Where are you caught in the electric energy of creative change in the new?
Where do you feel most spiritually fed? And how can you support and encourage the space that you may not feel as connected, recognizing that God needs both, and beyond?
The Rev. Chris Davies is the point person for congregational assessment, support, and advancement at the national offices of the UCC. She loves church deeply, and wants to help vision how we can transform the world, for the sake of the Gospel.