Weekly Message from T. J.

Inch by Inch

The thunderclap was ominous. I don’t hear as much thunder on Oahu as in other places I’ve lived. And when I hear it, there is usually rain close behind. As I exited the church after the 10 am service, I saw the gray patch on the otherwise bald sky and I wondered if it would all work. The planning, memorization, emails, and coordination were all helping to gather the members of our Young Family Ohana and other adjacent adults, to have our first Young Families gathering in more than a year, outside, with masks, social distancing, and hopefully, fun.

All week I’d been memorizing The Garden Song, a song by David Mallet that has been covered in various ways by just about every folk singer in history. I was all ready to wow the children with my guitar and the fun bouncy rhythm of the tune. I had this vision, you see, of the minister in the park under a tree with his guitar—the “cool” minister. And this was going to be my chance to fulfill that vision. But what is it humans are supposed to do to make the Divine laugh? That’s right: make plans.

As the families gathered, so did the rains. We rang the bell, we lit the chalice, and we circled round. We sang a welcoming song together, which was a challenge. Perhaps my selection of a round was not the way to go. And by the time our service rounded the corner to the story for all ages, the rain was starting to come. As I watched droplets collect on my laptop computer screen and keyboard, again, I realized this was a learning experience for me…but one I hoped would not come at too steep a price.

Any learning worth doing is like that. It has a cost. Yes, there is the time that learning takes. There are also sometimes actual costs and fees. In this case, one of our newest families brought soil, small pots, and sunflower seeds so we could each plant sunflowers. But real learning asks more than these things. The recognition that launching into singing a round with children and people who haven’t been to church in more than a year required some acceptance of my own shortsightedness. And then there was the rain—a lesson in powerlessness humans have over so much of our environment.

And this learning cost something else: The Garden Song. So much of the time together would have been perfectly summed up in its lyrics: the planting, the earth, the rain. But it was clear that time on the playground was yet even more perfect. So I stowed my guitar and my vision of “cool” and wrapped up the service with a blessing upon the seeds we planted. And in the moment I grieved my chance to sing “inch by in row by row, gonna make this garden grow” I also marveled at the dozen children who’d grown this year, inch by inch, and at what it meant to them to be playing together again. And like a clap of thunder, it struck me how much this year cost them, cost all of us, to learn the lesson of how much we need one another to thrive.

Many blessings, my friends,
Rev. T. J.

2 Responses to “Weekly Message from T. J.

  1. So many lessons from one small gathering! I’m glad you and the families did get together, however briefly. I love The Garden Song. I learned it in the 70s living in Western Mass. It was a regular of a local folk singer couple.

  2. And we celebrated the families and children again as we shoveled dirt together onto the extended play area, once again ‘infested’ with children. How we’ve grown.

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