It was Mother’s Day. I was visiting a congregation. Their tradition was to invite members to speak on days like this. A young woman, visibly pregnant, maybe 5 months, stood at the podium, and began to share. She began, “things weren’t always great with my mom, in fact, they were pretty awful…” As she continued to share her story, and pain, she began to quietly weep. Her 2 year old walked up to her. She picked him up and held him on her hip, as she continued to share. Her toddler brought tissues and wiped her tears as she spoke.
There were 35-40 of us there, listening carefully. Her pain, her honesty, and her mothering were all witnessed and received. She told her truth and she was honored for it by her community. Things weren’t great with her mom, but here she was, a mother and a baby on the way, standing with courage and hope, sharing deeply.
I was blown away. I had never experienced that kind of complicated truth and honesty on a Mother’s Day in worship. I knew much more about being nice and polite, especially in Sunday worship. There was nothing superficial here. There was deep, personal truth, respected and received by the community where she had been a member for some time, which gave her the foundation of trust and strength to share. She BELONGED there.
Belonging to me means being able to tell the complicated truth, and to be heard, seen, and supported as we walk together, sharing the load.
Belonging always leads me to Community. A book I return to again and again is Living Into Community, Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us, by Christine Pohl, (2021, Eerdmans).
Out of qualitative research, she outlines 4 practices for sustaining a healthy community:
One that practices Gratitude,
Makes and keeps Promises,
I recommend it to you.
by Susan Kintner
President, Grünewald Guild Board of Directors (2022-2023)