Surprised by Joy
"Joy is like a signpost to those lost in the woods, pointing the way and when we have found the road we are passing signposts every few miles." C.S. Lewis
Last week as Crawford and I were leaving worship at Hagar's Community Church we were walking out of the WCCW with Chapel Officer. As we were walking out the Officer commented to me and Crawford that it was surprising and unique to hear so much laughter during the worship service. He said "it's not that often around here that the women get to laugh together." As we drove home we began to process what the officer had said and how it was so different than our perspective, because, I can honestly say that the worship services I have the honor of leading each week are some of the most laughter filled worship services I have ever experienced. This is not to say that they are not taken seriously by the women or that the women are making fun of worship. It is quit the opposite of that. Rather there is so much joy in the room that smiles and laughter fill the room. The women come eager to participate in worship, to fellowship with one another, to share updates on what is happening in their lives. Even when the updates are hard or disappointing the women turn to each other eager for the comfort of friendship and community.
The women of Hagar's Community Church have taught me that laughter is a signpost pointing me towards what is most sacred and most holy. This comment by the officer helped me understand a bit more of my calling at the WCCW- I see myself holding space each week for the women to come together and experience Joy- their own joy and the joy that their Creator takes in them.
It has become a bit of a tradition to have some sort of skit or play each week of the scripture text or some sort of engagement with this text. A couple of weeks ago there was a particularly dramatic retelling of the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector- that certainly had everyone's attention in the room and also made peoples sides hurt from laughing so hard. I noticed this one lady who had come to worship looking rather skeptical about the whole thing but as the skit went on and the laughter rolled, she couldn't help but join in. The next week she walked in and asked "are we going to have another skit?" I was surprised by the anticipatory joy she had for worship that evening. She even volunteered to take part in a skit! The laughter welcomed her to trust us more.
I have been reflecting and wondering why traditional church services are so serious all the time? Why is there so little opportunity for laughter and playfulness in worship? I once heard a TED talk (sorry I don't know the specific one) say that the foundation of trust is built around play and fun- if you can't play a game with someone or if you can't laugh at a joke with someone than it makes it difficult to trust them. I find this to be true in my life. I also wonder if this is why worship is so serious? I wonder if we actually trust those we worship alongside? If we actually want to be in community with our fellow church members? I wonder if we are more concerned about keeping our traditions going rather than looking for joyful signposts that show us the presence of God? What would it be like for you if weekly worship was the time you laughed the most each week?
What Hagar's Community Church has shown me is that when you need the joy of the God- God will make sure to pour it out- you just have to be willing to open your eyes to see it and trust your community enough to experience it.
Grace and Peace and Joy