I sat in the back of Peace Lutheran Church this past Sunday, a guest along with my mother in a religious space that is not our own. I was there to support my mom. She was there as part of a special blessing over quilts that she had helped make.
Quilts the community had made before were sent to refugees of the conflict in Syria and to evacuees from Hurricane Sandy, and each time the community sent another batch out into the world, they made sure to say a special blessing over the quilts and the hands that made them, so that the good that was done would be multiplied. I don’t know precisely when my mother started volunteering with this quilt making crew at the Lutheran church or when they began to call her “The Tuesday Lutheran”, but I knew that this work is as meaningful to my mother without a Christian faith as it is to her companions who do it for their Christian faith.
As I watched the service, I thought of all the ways that their ritual matched what I would call “spell work”, and how their prayers were like my own, only pointed at a different deityform. I know that some Christians would say that I was being disrespectful in calling their ritual work “spell work”, but I could just as easily explain to them that my spellcraft is just a different version of their own ritual work. Sure, many Christians might think that any ritual not focused toward their vision of God was, by default, in support of the Devil, but I know that many Christians are more open than that, and recognize that the Universe is not split into Their Religion and Evil.
I did not bring up my thoughts to these particular Christians. I did not question their openness to my ideas. That was not what I was there for. I was there as their guest, and they have been kind to my mother, accepted her as she is, an oddball Jew in a small rural town with more than 20 Christian churches and not another Jew for miles.What I did do was appreciate the effort that this community put in to doing real work that would help people in need. I appreciated the fact that their prayers for the recipients of the blankets were not about religious acceptance or righteousness but about health and strength and hope. I appreciated that this small community felt such a strong calling to help people that they would never meet and whose trials they could never fully understand.
“God’s Work, Our Hands” the quilting volunteers’ t-shirts read. And it is God’s work. And they are serving the greater good. And I am grateful that they exist.
I thought about a Patheos post I’d read about Pagan priesthood and that made me think of the ways that different gods speak to us. In my cosmology, I could fit the world of these Christians into a comfortable place where their god had called them just as my deityforms have called to me. My own belief says that these are all just shadows of something much bigger, facets of the Whole just as we humans are facets of It. This view may not work for the Christians, or even for other Pagans, but it helped me appreciate their work, their faith, and the beauty of their path in Spirit.
As the service moved on, my mind started to wander away from all the things in the Church and toward some of my own worries and concerns. My life is in a bit of flux right now, and there’s been a lot on my mind. The pastor was a few minutes into his sermon when his words broke through my internal walls. He was relating a story I knew well from the Old Testament, teaching a lesson I should have known just as well, but I had clearly been ignoring lately. His words may as well have been just for me.
No, I wasn’t called to Christ through the words of this pastor, but perhaps the god that pastor serves offered me comfort and strength because I had been respectful and appreciative of His church. I certainly felt blessed in the moment and thankful for the lesson.