The Beginning of Goodbye: Hold On, Don’t Let Go.

I have 2 Sundays left before we move up north.

I am in total denial about this, it’s clear. I’ve been trying to say what needs saying, observe what needs observing, be present for what I need presence in. But at the end of the day, when I think about this week and next week and the week after, I unfailingly place myself on the risers at Glide for all Sundays to come.

It was a great honor to lift the offering at Celebration last Sunday. For those of us unschooled in church-ese, that is the brief testimony given by a member of the congregation to inspire folks to join and support the community. As far as I understand it this happens at many churches, but of course, as with all things, it is very different at Glide.

At Glide, people bear witness not just to the influence of deity or the divine in their lives. They bear witness to the dirty, bloody, sweaty, tear-stained work done by the folks providing services at Glide; to the unshakably supportive community of the congregation; to the changes brought by the wisdom and radical love of the pastoral team. Some folks are Christian, some are Jewish, some are Buddhist, some are sort of vaguely spiritual in a way they wouldn’t even be able to describe if you pressed them to it. Many of them tell profound stories of recovery that would not have been possible without the strength they drew from the people standing around them. It would be kind of cliche if it weren’t so incredibly powerful to hear.

My little spiel had to do with everything I’ve said on this blog. I won’t beleaguer the points (you can order the entire service at glide.org ; just scroll down to Sunday Celebration DVD/CD and enter 8/22/10, 9am service – you can see the smiling face of Your Friendly Neighborhood Atheist at last). I talked about inclusiveness, social justice, the fact that as an atheist I have had access to the community, ritual, music, support that church affords and have still been able to be myself and believe what I believe. If you’ve been following the blog you know roughly what I’m talking about.

After the service there was a flood of people who came up to speak to me. Some pressed the addresses of their churches up in Portland into my hand and welcomed me with love and excitement. Some embraced me and said that even though they’d never spoken to me they’d come to think of me as family and were sad to see me go. But the majority told me something like this: “I’m an atheist and I’ve been coming here for years but I’ve never felt comfortable saying that.” Folks came out of the closet a little bit, and realized they were far more welcomed than they’d thought they were. It was pretty awesome.

Right now I’m having a hard time composing this in a cohesive, slick way, because I’m listening to one of my favorite Ensemble songs:

Every time we do this song I feel the bottoms of my feet lifted up through my belly, and I end up weeping to the point of almost not being able to sing. It epitomizes Glide to me. If you have time, you should listen to it. If you don’t believe in a God, translate the biblical “He” or “Him” to “love”, or “community”, or “family”, or “that thing that passes between human beings in rare moments of openness and courage, when even strangers feel like brothers”. Think about a time when someone or something has grounded you, saved you from drowning, kept your head up, picked up your pieces. If it’s a divine someone or something, cool. If it’s not, cool. The point is that we all need to hear a kind and beautiful voice tell us to “hold on, don’t let go”. I think what I’ve been trying to say in all these many, many words over these many, many months is simply this: Whatever it is that convinces you to hold on, don’t let go, is worthy of praise and respect.

To all my brothers and sisters who are hanging by a thread, hold on. Don’t let go.

2 responses to this post.

  1. I have never told you how much I love your blog – but I have loved it for a long time. I am a “soft” agnostic who never really felt she fit in among believers or atheists … a few believers, however, are an exception, and you are definitely an exception. This blog is such a safe place for me to be.

    This sounds really weird as I don’t even know you, but I love you. Thanks for everything.

    Reply

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I didn’t see this comment until a little while ago and it was such a lovely surprise to find it. I hadn’t written in SOOOOOOO long. Thank you for inspiring me to start up again.

      Reply

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