One night I was at an evening worship service with my mother. The interior of the church was softly lit. It seemed to be glowing, perhaps from candlelight. The congregation was singing a hymn when, suddenly, I began to cry. At first slowly, but within seconds I was sobbing, and then I was crying uncontrollably. My mother handed me the keys and told me to go sit in the car. I had the sense that it was to spare either her or me further embarrassment. I went out to the car and remained there until the service was over.
This experience was one I have puzzled over. It was never discussed and there wasn’t anyone who could have helped me to make sense of it. But it was a memory I clung to because there seemed to have been something transformative about it. It felt as though something had shifted or melted or cracked open. There was something so beautiful and hopeful and precious that I could only cry in the face of it.
I grew up in a world of books, fantasy, and interior landscape. Members of my immediate family rarely connected or interrelated with one another, but seemed to live parallel lives. We lived miles from extended family. I had attended seven different schools by the time I was fifteen and I had only transient connections with teachers or classmates. I had been sent to a variety of churches in several denominations and had not found a sense of belonging in any of them. Church, school, and home were part of the world I moved through, often with a book in front of my face and almost always in a reality of my own making. I viewed the world from the inside looking out in fear, suspicion, and isolation.
In that moment, however, I experienced communion as something more than the religious rite I had been brought up with. I experienced intimacy, mutuality, accord, connection… In that communal lifting of voices in worship I encountered the Light and it was almost too beautiful to bear.