Our vestry warden, Nancy Sung, likes to talk about Sunday "subplots," all those invisible storylines that are woven together as we come into worship. We each bring in our own subplot every Sunday — our worries and concerns and hopes from the past week, our sleep or lack thereof, whatever peace or chaos our Sunday morning has brought.
And then as we unload the van and prepare for worship together, more subplots emerge. The van locks are frozen shut. A wireless receiver on the soundboard is mysteriously dead. The port has spilled in the altar bin. The baptism candle is broken in five places. The outdoor signs are missing, the sticky tack has lost its stick, and the SD card refuses to format. A musician is weary after a sleepless night. Volunteers swap and cover for each other for a myriad of reasons. A new liturgical season begins.
Somehow, by 10am, we are ready to once again enact our main plot: the saving life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And as we do, a thousand subplots carry on, mostly unnoticed, informing our corporate worship that day. So in this week's letter, I thought I'd share a few subplots from Sunday.
Subplot 1: Tanrı Kuzusu
We sang the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) in Turkish on Sunday. This is our second Lent singing the Tanrı Kuzusu, and we do so for several reasons. First, it's an achingly beautiful song in a minor key, well suited to Lenten longings. Second, singing in other languages (especially unfamiliar ones) requires us to relinquish our sense of competence, even if just for a moment. Suddenly we are all beginners and outsiders, a disorientation that can sometimes aid our spiritual journey and heighten our sense of need for God.
And finally, this particular song in this particular language carries a story. Our outreach partners in West Asia sing this song as part of their Sunday worship. They shared the music with us several years ago and even played it (on ukulele!) at my dinner table last summer. Singing the Tanrı Kuzusu provides a powerful connection to our shared worship across cultures and languages. That connection feels especially poignant now as our partners minister in the aftermath of the recent earthquake.
I invite you to learn this song as a simple Lenten practice and an invitation to pray for and with our friends in West Asia as they minister amidst tragedy and uncertainty. You can practice the unfamiliar sounds of the Turkish alphabet here:
And then listen to a recording of Cory singing the Tanrı Kuzusu here:
Subplot 2: Nursery
For the first time in over 3 years, we offered nursery care on Sunday. We stopped nursery care, initially, for pandemic reasons. We worshiped on Zoom for over a year, and our littlest members joined while eating Cheerios in their high chairs or toddling around their living room floor. Then we resumed in-person worship for 8 months in a parking lot, and nursery was infeasible for practical and pandemic reasons.
But something else happened in that time. We learned the goodness and unpredictable joy of including our littlest members in our worship. We saw our youngest children begin to learn the rhythms of the liturgy even as they scribbled sidewalk chalk at our feet or picked dandelions from the curb of the parking lot. We grew more flexible, patient, and tolerant as a congregation as we made space for the needs of some of our most vulnerable members. We enfolded these pandemic babies — children who have spent their formative years in some form of isolation and restriction — in a lively, loving, supportive community. I wrote more about why we include children in our worship here and encourage you to read.
So why offer nursery now? Well, in typical Incarnation fashion, we're "trying stuff." Kids of all ages are still warmly welcomed in the service, and the nook is still available as a soft play space for our youngest kids and their caregivers.
But we've also heard from a number of weary parents that nursery care would be a blessing and an aid to their worship. We've also heard from some of our stalwart pre-COVID nursery volunteers that they would relish the opportunity to get to know the many new babies and toddlers in our church, as well as their parents. And we seem to have the critical mass of volunteers each week to allow us to manage the extra load of setting up, staffing, and tearing down a nursery. So, we're trying something new and seeing how it goes. Let us know your thoughts!
Sunday's nursery was full of movement. Many pandemic babies are not accustomed to being separated from their parents! Toddlers explored a new space and a few exciting new items (a donated Pikler triangle, which had previously been collecting dust in our office, was a big hit!), and parents moved between the nursery and the service. The nursery nook in the gym still saw lots of action!
I invite you to pray for this transition for our kids, parents, and volunteers, and to consider serving as a nursery volunteer! It's a great opportunity to get to know a few people in a smaller setting. You'll miss the sermon — but there's more to church than the sermon, and we post the sermon audio every week — but you'll make it back for the Eucharist every week.
What subplots did you notice on Sunday? What subplot is God weaving into your life this Lent? I'd love to hear.