Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Advent Closure

A good conversation today around what's going on with our creche. After a night to sleep on it and some prayerful letting go, I see a way that we can bring closure to the creche as we have it now in order to make the space more familiar to folks in time for Christmas Eve.

There was one comment from a church member which has helped me to re-cast the vision for myself. It came from a person who is deeply aware of the pain, poverty, and brokenness of the world. She takes this in to her soul throughout her week and comes to worship, in some sense, to seek healing for the pain that is in the world. To be confronted with the creche scene as we'd created it, made the space feel no longer safe to her.

We also wondered together if some of the resistance was because we had relied too much on folks' capacity to engage with symbols. We created an intentionally ambiguous scene: is it a homeless encampment? Katrina? a 'generic' scene of devastation? For me, the creche gathered into itself all the pain of this past year and set it in the context of the Incarnation--in such a way that it reminded me that nothing happens outside of God, no devastation is beyond God. But for some others, perhaps the scene was inaccessible without offering hints for interpreting it. We offered some, certainly. But we could have done a better job with that.

In his sermon on Sunday, G quoted from O Little Town of Bethlehem: "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." It is a beautiful phrase that captures my experience of the creche.

J made an excellent point. She said that those of us who are behind the creation of the creche have been living with it every day. This is true! I've carried that creche inside me all Advent, trying to think of ways to speak hope into the space, to translate it in worship, to craft worship services with integrity around such a gritty scene. But J rightly pointed out that probably many folks engaged with it for an hour once a week, and if they didn't resonate with it initially, it's possible they simply have turned themselves off to it altogether.

We plan now to ritualize a de-construction of the creche, not in a way that deligitmizes the work, however. On Sunday morning we will remove three sections during the service--the blue tarps, the spraypainted signs, and the shopping cart. This will cue people in to the fact that they can expect a transformation in the space in time for Christmas. (One person has promised to go elsewhere that night if she walks in and sees the creche still there.)

One thing I felt strongly about was that we not tidy everything up, as if the scenes of devastation get resolved neatly once we bring God into it. I felt it should be visible need. But not tidy resolution. It just doesn't work that way.

So for Christmas Eve, we will have only the Advent Wreath (the oil barrel) still remaining from the scene. This symbol, I believe, is still strong enough to carry us through. But it will not overwhelm. (The cat has just settled himself across my lap and forearms as I type this!)

This is my feeling about it right now: we have made the long, difficult journey through Advent with this gritty scene of devastation residing at our center. When we celebrate the Incarnation on Christmas Eve (and Christmas morning of course), we will have a present reminder of that journey. But we will be released from the agony of having to take it into ourselves. We will, I hope, be freed to joy.


LutheranChik said...

The people who've objected to the creche -- can they articulate why?

JWD said...

lutheranchik, first let me say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog. (I found it some weeks ago after doing a search for the word "Advent"). And it was through your site that I found out about the RevGalBlogPals, which is just about the most amazing collection of women that I've ever encountered! So, thank you!

Your question is an excellent one. And it speaks to a concern I have about the process of what we've gone through the past couple of days. I'm a recent member of this congregation, just over a year now. So in a real sense, I'm still figuring out dynamics.

It seems in this case that the dynamics have been very indirect--no one has spoken to me directly about concerns, no one has spoken directly to the pastor either. They have gone through other people, who then pass the concern on to the pastor. This is not a healthy way to deal with anxiety, stress, conflict. And it means that we don't know exactly why some folks are objecting. We're speculating to some degree.

I see this as a growth opportunity--I believe we will begin having these conversations about worship as a result of this experience. And that is a great thing.

Peace to you.