I used to be on the chancel often as a Worship Associate, speaking my four-to-five minute personal statement or “credo” as we called these short talks given from the lectern. We shared our personal truths in response to the topic of the minister’s sermon, often putting a personal face on a generality.
I got to revel in pride, gluttony, lust and envy. I revealed falling in love and years later catapulting out of the relationship I fell into five years earlier. So that is a lot of sharing. It’s possible that the congregants now know more about me and other Worship Associates than they might know about some of their close acquaintances.
One of my Worship Associate colleagues spoke of the grief, confusion, and disappointment of having her foster adopt daughter taken back many months after the entire church had embraced her, her wife, and their baby. Hearing her tell the truth of their loss opened our hearts. And that is all to the good because the point of church is to open hearts.
Those who look to Biblical authority for how to talk to each other, can check out Ephesians 4:15 where we are admonished to “Speak the Truth in Love.” The opportunity to speak our truths in love and to be heard is more than self-centered pleasure at not being interrupted or disagreed with. In that spirit we give as well as receive a gift.
Krista Tippett in Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters—And How to Talk About It writes: “...time and space become more generous when we explore ultimate truths in the presence of others. We make the discovery that when we are honest and vivid and particular in describing what is most personal and important in life, we can summon universal and redemptive places at the every edge of words.”
To myself I make the commitment to speak my truth in such a way that my story can awaken compassion and encourage interconnection. I want those who hear me to know that the story may be mine, the specifics mine, but the feelings are theirs as well. If I speak about loss, it is because loss has touched us all. If I sometimes sound self-deprecating it is in the spirit of laughing because, as Hafiz the poet puts it, I still think I have “a thousand serious moves” in the chess game in which I face a superior opponent who knows that my losing or winning are all the same.
It is because pain is certain and we will all suffer that we must learn to love each other. I want those to whom I speak to experience this compassion we all have within us. That is a gift I hope to give with my personal stories.
I love what Madeleine L'Engle says in Walking on Water. “Stories are able to help us become more whole, to become Named. When we name each other, we are sharing in the joy and privilege of incarnation, and all great works of art are icons of Naming.”
Though I can’t guarantee my talks are great works of oratorical art, it is my goal to name my experience in such a way that those who hear me will be encouraged to name their own experiences and speak them so that when we walk among each other we have more than a single story by which to define this community in which we live and love.