Today is the day of Epiphany in the church calendar. The Christmas decorations come down, and it's time to move on to the brief church season before Lent. Epiphany is a time of spiritual awakening; it is the period of year which represents a new understanding of the world.
The church service today was truly the best I've been to in a long time. A woman from the congregation arranged the whole service, so my dad got to sit this one out. Instead of giving a sermon, she arranged for five members of the congregation to share their sense of epiphany.
Each member did a wonderful job in a different yet beautiful way. One man spoke of being 23 and experiencing the death of his father; he suffered nightmares and only learned how to come to an understanding of life after a skydiving trip in which he experienced death and God while waiting for the parachute to release.
One woman spoke of tiny miracles in life, and the beauty of her nephew. She is barren due to a medical condition, but she still finds joy in a yellow rose poking through snow, the northern lights dancing in the sky, and special games she plays with her nephew.
Our choir director shared a song about passing which used the metaphor of a boat. Her daughter sang the solo, and for five minutes the entire congregation sat enraptured by her throaty tenor.
A newer member described how he found our church. He had been searching for somewhere to take his family, but he wanted a church that was open and understanding. Thankfully, the news and internet campaign surrounding the UCC's commercials reached his computer, heart, and family.
The last speaker was a Catholic monk, and he still considers himself Catholic despite attending our church. He is an openly gay man, and he no longer feels welcome in the church he has contributed to his whole life. His talk centered on a trip to the Vatican with a delegation of gay Catholics, and he described the harsh response they received. Three days, they brought gifts to the nativity to be blessed. Three days, they were turned away, so they took their gifts to a homeless shelter, domestic violence center, and an orphange. On the fourth day, they brought only pictures of themselves, which they left in front of the nativity. After that, he left the Catholic church and found our welcoming home. He's a wonderful man, and I wish he felt welcome in the church of his childhood and young life. It truly saddens me that there can be such a conservative, unloving pope to follow John Paul.
In sharing their epiphanies, our church members touched the root of why I attend church. I don't go to be saved, and I don't go due to some sense of duty. I go to church because I find camraderie, compassion, and companionship in the varied membership that makes up my local UCC church.