The Heart of the Matter
There is a tiny church by the water. There between cruise ships on one side and the medical school on the other, in the shadow of a smokestack that seems so charmingly out of place, the church gathers. It’s a church that follows the Anglican tradition, which is the tradition noted most often for first breaking free from the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. But this church has no building of its own, no sanctuary, no school. Instead, every Sunday for worship, the church springs to life at the water’s edge inside the pumping station at Ala Moana and Keawe.
The priest of this parish is a friend of mine. And I went to visit the church when I could and brought a friend along. What struck me first was that the church is really composed of just a few families—a size that might allow folks to arrange a potluck by text message, not a church-wide email. And it seemed every family also had at least two children under ten in tow. There was roughly the same number of young children as there were “young at heart” children (adults) gathered together.
Some of the older children took part in the service in small ways, like helping with the candles. And the younger children did what younger children do when they’re asked to sit in place for an hour and a half. They squirmed, they made faces, they got on the floor (in fairness, so did the adults when we were kneeling and rising, and kneeling and rising). One child called out for “daddy” so loudly that the father had to ask another member to take over what he was doing so he could take his child in his arms.
Close to the end of the liturgy, there came the time to receive communion. This is when the congregation approaches the altar to receive what those in this tradition believe is the body of the one who forms the foundation of their faith. My friend the priest explained before beginning this element of the liturgy who could receive communion and who could approach and receive a blessing from him instead. I approached him when it came time, but the friend I brought with me didn’t want to.
In the car on the way home my friend shared that when I went up during communion and he didn’t, the child who helped with the candles looked at him sitting alone and said, “You can go up too. It’s okay.” The tiny tributaries of the aisles emptied into the center and flowed forward to the altar but somehow also backward to a different time, in a different place, when a different child called out for “Daddy,” and Daddy was silent. Instead the hand of a friend speaks blessings with a touch. The permission of a child holds hope of a future of welcome. A parent’s embrace answers the call of the child’s longing at long last. And an ancient, broken pumping station in the heart of a community comes to life once again.
May it ever be so.
Rev. T. J.