Friday, September 9, 2016

I Want to Run a Rescue Shop

I have not been to church in a long while. For someone who spent so many years in the church it sometimes surprises me that it is no longer a vital part of my life.

A few years ago I would sometimes slip into the Cathedral Santuario de la Virgen de Guadalupe in downtown Dallas. It’s a beautiful, sacred space. There are daily masses both in English and Spanish. Inside the sanctuary is a large, life-like crucifix of Jesus and other smaller but elaborate sculptures of biblical scenes. The Cathedral was built in 1902 and has been through various renovations and is today a vibrant and popular place of worship for Catholics.

I have many issues with the Roman Catholic Church, and the institutional Church in general. And I have no interest whatsoever in the giant mega evangelical churches that remind me of convention centers or entertainment venues.

But there, in the quiet of the Cathedral, I have often felt something deeply spiritual stir within me.

For some time now, church has not been a place for me to go and pray, or get saved, or rev myself up for the week. I have always wanted church to be a place where, in the presence of burning candles and quiet thoughts, in surroundings where reverence is honored and the transcendent is celebrated, one could feel the nearness of God, or the Life Force, or Beauty or Love, or the Divine, and one’s thoughts would be directed toward wonder and an awareness of the holy, and one could be inspired to be more.

In that kind of setting, which I have felt at the Cathedral de Guadalupe, and years ago, in my post-graduate work, at the Mercy Center’s small chapel that looked out over Long Island Sound—in those settings, I have experienced love in my heart and a genuine care for the world we live in. There I have thought of Jesus and his life of grace and goodness. And I have left there wanting to be a better human being.

Isn’t that what church should be about?

Not politics. Not self-righteousness. Not feeling superior to others. Not getting caught up in judging people who do things we don’t do. Not hoping that going regularly we will be rewarded with health and prosperity. Not to boost our business or recruit clients. Not to escape in an afterlife. And not to ignore the hard realities of life and people that desperately need our acceptance and our attention.

As a minister, I used to love a little poem that said,
“Some want to live within the sound
Of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop,
Within a yard of hell.”

My therapist recently asked me why, if I have such a social conscience and seem so concerned about people who are hurting, why am I not doing more about that. Why am I not a volunteer in a soup kitchen or working with agencies helping the homeless? It was a wise and devastating wake-up call to me. And something I am determined to work on.

I have people that I try to love and encourage, people who are lonely, or in need, emotionally distraught, or ill. But everyone should have that going on in their lives, helping support people they care about.

I want to do more.

Our society is often a cauldron of witches brew, boiling over and in danger of scalding all of us. Many already are suffering. Racial prejudice. Economic inequality. Obsessive fear of those different from us. Hate for blacks, gays, Muslims, Hispanics, and immigrant refugees. Police brutality held blameless. Homelessness. A dysfunctional and often corrupt criminal justice system. There are people forgotten in these messes. People left injured, broken, and in despair because of them. They need help.

What can I do? I don’t know. But I want to try.

Traditional church gives me little direction. But perhaps a visit to the Cathedral will give me insights and inspiration. Or maybe just an hour on a quiet park bench, away from the furious bike riders, the active children, the city noise; just a place to reflect on my world and find my place to be a tangible helping presence. Somehow, I need that. And, I want that.

© 2016 Timothy Moody

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