Soon after September 11, 2001, I received requests from various congregations throughout the United States for permission to sing from “A Congregational Lament” in worship services. They needed a song to fit the evil besetting them. They wanted to mourn the terrible loss of life and to cry out to God for the Lord to lessen their pain somehow in what seemed so brutally destructive. As believers they wanted to sing a sad song of faith that did not pretend in Stoic fashion to take on the chin whatever happens.
On February 18, 2003, a Tuesday morning, Immanuel Christian Reformed Church of Brampton burned down almost completely. Many of us stood that morning watching the firefighters struggle to control the flames as we struggled to comprehend what was happening. The congregation experienced mixed emotions. Erick and I had been in Brampton for less than a year, so we hadn’t yet become attached to the building; others struggled, knowing that the building had been in need of expansion or revamping to become a more functional space.
In a culture obsessed with health, it is perhaps too tempting to describe everything in terms of health. But health-related metaphors are easily understood and often are illuminating—the kind of metaphors that communicate well in church newsletters and choir bulletins.
Reconciliation is a process. It is a long and often difficult road through truth and justice aimed at the restoration of broken relationships, in order to establish a new reconciled reality. There are no quick-fix solutions, no shortcuts or easy roads. The process of reconciliation that is taking place in the church in South Africa illustrates the challenges and offers guidelines for rituals of reconciliation that can help the church worldwide address its ongoing need for reconciliation.
I remember unsettling conversations in the fellowship hall after worship. A middle-aged woman once said to me, “We returned home from Bethel Christian camp last night and the worship there was so inspiring! My husband and I were deeply blessed. I must confess it was difficult to worship here again this morning.” Another time a teen had this to say: “We got back late last night from a week-long SERVE project. It was a blast! We all felt so close to each other and I grew so much in my walk with God.