This morning I don't bother to lock the door behind me as I do when I'm alone in the building. I enter with no computer or even my handbag. I pick up a piece of silvery grey material, turn the lights off again, and lock the door from the outside.
This morning, I will not gather with my community. I have been invited to lead another with poetry and drama, so I continue down the hill, through almost empty streets, to the city.
My fellow actors from Subtle Bricks arrive, and we greet the minister, my dear friend Sandy, with whom I have collaborated to give shape to the worship gathering for the 9:30 congregation. Last minute rehearsal, to familiarise ourselves with this space, get the feel of the material wafting before laying on the table. Last minute adaptation to allow space for grief - there has been a tragic death, it will rekindle any number of stories of loss and grief for those who gather, it will move us in compassion for a brother in faith.
The story we are telling in our gathering this morning is the story of two disciples still stunned by their own grief at the death of Jesus, confused by reports that he has risen from death, lost and heading for home in the only direction that makes any sense.
Sandy and I have chosen to tell the story in three movements, with colour, poetry, movement, silence and song. We hope this will allow space for the emotions evoked by the story to lead the listeners to make meaning for themselves.
After the first movement came the adaptation for grief: the news is given, followed by an invitation to grieve as a flower is placed on the black of the first movement of the story. The invitation is extended - come and take a flower for yourself, acknowledge the grief, sorrow, darkness, of the stories you hold in your heart this morning. I cannot express how moving it was to watch the vase of white flowers gradually diminish to a bare shell of green - somehow lifeless but still alive, even after the decimation of all that sorrow …
And the story continued, as Jesus joined the two disciples in their wandering, then joined them in their home. As they broke bread together, grief melted away with the discovery of Jesus' continuing communion with them - joy, healing, restoring, joy.
We all came to the table to share in the bread. We heard a story of the transformative power of communion with Christ.
And as we concluded, we marvelled together at the appropriateness of this prayerful, contemplative gathering for the moment of grief this community face together.
Holy Coincidence? Openness to Spirit? Courageous naming of pain and darkness, even as we express our faith, hope and trust in the continuing presence of God with us?
My mind returned to my own congregation, and one Sunday during our first Advent season together. As it happened, the resource we were using to shape our worship contained liturgy written by me. It was the week of Joy (Advent moves through Hope, Peace, Joy and Love). As we shared our news, one of our young folk told us of her delight at being accepted for our National Institute for Dramatic Arts, a wonderful achievement. And one of our teachers told us of the multiple stories of grief that were swirling around his teaching team and his family as cancer affected the health of at least four people close to him.
The words in the liturgy we were using, which I can't remember now, were somehow just right for this juxtaposed joy and sorrow. I was grateful for those words. Then I remembered that these were my words, written well before I knew we would need them, before I even knew this would be the community with which I would speak them.
Holy Coincidence? Openness to Spirit? Courageous naming of the breadth of human experience as we gather to worship the One who abides with us all, through it all?