A Vital Contribution to our Faith Community
by Rev. Brigette Weier
The first time I met Elmer, he immediately grabbed my hand and said “I’m Elmer. What’s your name?” It was clear by the way he reached for everyone’s hand when he spoke with them, that Elmer has never met a stranger. He only has friends.
Elmer came to our first Rejoicing Spirits gathering time in June. Rejoicing Spirits is a “no-shush” worship service and time of community that is inclusive of all people no matter their ability. All people gathered are invited to participate in their own way, to their own level of comfort. Spaces are embedded into the environment that allow for full engagement according to needs: headphones to limit noise input, dim lighting for visual input or a separate space for safe physical boundaries. We share a meal, engage in a Bible story, sing (!), pray, participate in a service activity, laugh, share our stories, and God’s love.
Without hesitation, Elmer shares God’s love! When I asked for someone to pray at that first gathering, he quickly volunteered, blessing us with his words and insights of what it means to live together as God’s people. He earnestly asked for blessings on the food, for all people gathered and the phrase that he spoke the most was “thank you.”
Each time we meet for Rejoicing Spirits, Elmer prays for us. More than that, he invites others to stand and pray with him, even if they are non-verbal, shy, or uncertain. Elmer reveals at the core of our relationship with God isn’t eloquent, fancy verbiage, perfectly performed liturgy or music, but unadulterated love, joy, authenticity and grateful hearts—seen most as people who want to hold your hand as you share a conversation.
These are people with hearts that sing loudly to God who gathers us into a beloved and diverse community not for our own sake, but for the sake of others. And people with hearts that are too full of love and joy to be silent but must rejoice with their whole being, even if it’s unconventional.
Elmer shares his gift of his grateful heart and love of God with me and all who encounter him. The Rejoicing Spirits community reminds me to look for God’s kingdom right here on earth where no one is left out, all gifts are needed for reveal the love of Christ, and everyone is affirmed as created as beloved in the image of our Creator who holds us all dear, who calls us see our neighbor as family and not a stranger of whom to be wary. This is Christ’s Church. This is God’s intent for wholeness and abundant life for us all, this is how we will be complete as the body of Christ; clasping hands with friends old and new, saying “thank you” and rejoicing to God as well as rejoicing in and for one another.
God, to you we give thanks!