There’s a wonderful Scottish song called ‘O What a Parish!’ about a congregation that overthrow an over-bearing and extremely dour minister, and then hold an enormous party in the kirk (church) with whisky and dancing and song; and at the end they all shake hands politely and go home (to sleep it off, presumably!) It finishes:
“If kirks all o’er Scotland held like social meetings,
nae warnin’ ye’d need fra a far-tinklin’ bell:
for true love and friendship will draw ye together
far better than roarin’ the horrors o’ Hell.”
Recently my church held a sort of blót, a ‘youth supper’ not just for the kids who attend our church (most of whom did not come) but for local kids who’ve been coming after school once a week to do things, and, I admit, just hang out. Each table was supposed to have one or two adults to “supervise.” I was the lone (supposed) adult at a table of nine teens, and I am not a good disciplinarian. After, as I was cleaning dishes, one of the other adults said to me, preparing to criticize,
“Your table was... um... rather rowdy.”
I had to reply,
“I know, I’m sorry if we disturbed others. But every one of those kids helped make the supper, and every one of them said, after the blessing, that they wished their family suppers could be like this, then they’d want to come to supper. But since most of their families are mired in alcohol and drugs, it’s not very likely they’ll have good family times. They’re really eager to come back to church for another meal, and I wanted them to feel safe and happy here, just as who they are.”
After a moment the other person said quietly, “Amen” and got a towel to dry dishes.
My best wishes to any group that practices the idea that spirituality and religion are to be about building people up, not tearing them down. And hoorah to groups in Iceland, who seem able to get along instead of constantly attacking each other.
Katharine Kroeber, Rockland, MA USA