God has entrusted the Church to keep the soul of childhood alive… Joy is the gift of the Church, whatever joy is possible for this sad world to share. —Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest
Our church does a thing called Together Nights. This year, we had three Together Nights spread out over the months of March, May, and June. The idea behind them is to gather our people (from multiple Sunday service times) together and expose them to something valuable that they wouldn’t normally see or hear. Our guest speakers this year included Scott “The Painter” Erickson, spoken word and hip-hop artist Propaganda, and Pastor April Carter. Anyway, it’s always easy for us to celebrate celebrity. We all tend to do it and it seems to come naturally to us. But having these unique, gifted, exceptional guests wasn’t my favorite thing about Together Nights.
My favorite thing was celebrating people from our church. On the final Together Night, we celebrated kids. We called out four kids by name and asked them to come up on stage. Then we said what we see in them, what we appreciate about them, and talked about how much of a blessing they are to our church family. Each kid was presented with a gift and our church applauded them.
It seemed holy, prophetic, necessary, uncommon…
It was special and I love it.
Some friends recently gave me a book by Brian Doyle called A Book of Uncommon Prayer – 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary. One of the prayers is called: Prayer for the Kindergarten Boy Who Asked Me, How Do You Manage to Get So Many Words on a Single Page of Your Book, Mister?
Here’s that prayer:
First of all I thought my head was going to fly off with joy, and then I had to resist the urge to bend down and hug this kid so hard his eyes would gog out, and then I had to explain to him and his classmates how I write books, which is that I write really big sentences and then a tiny lady inside my computer converts them to little lines that will fit on the pages of printed books, and then I had to explain that I was just kidding, and then my hour in their classroom drew to a close, and they signed autographs for me, and I signed one child’s hand, to general merriment, and then we took a class picture and I got them to pretend to pick their noses just before the teacher took our photograph, which we all thought was funny but she didn’t, and then I drove home.
But on the way home I thought for the one-millionth time that I am the luckiest man ever because the Breath Who Dreamed Everything into Being gave me three children of my own who came from people other than my lovely bride, and not for the first time and not for the last I concluded that little kids are the coolest things in the whole world, even better than beer and sneakers and osprey. And so: Amen.
So, what I’m saying (if it wasn’t entirely clear) is that my favorite thing about Together Nights was how we celebrated people… real people, people who are close—so close, we sometimes forget to celebrate and cherish and thank them. In my opinion, the church (in general) needs more of this. We have plenty of messages and videos and podcasts and speeches and statements. People aren’t experiencing a drought of messages. But I do believe there is a drought of celebrating people—just because they are.
It’s good that you are; how wonderful that you exist! —Josef Pieper