Worship acknowledges ‘elephant’

Feb 17, 2014 by and

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HARRISONBURG, Va. — Participants in the School for Leadership Training at Eastern Mennonite Seminary did not tiptoe for three days around the “elephant in the room” — the anguish felt by many over congregational disagreements in regard to same-sex relationships.

Church leaders pray at the foot of the cross during a worship service at the School for Leadership Training. — Photo by Lindsey Kolb/EMU

Church leaders pray at the foot of the cross during a worship service at the School for Leadership Training. — Photo by Lindsey Kolb/EMU

A highlight appeared to be a worship service titled “Offering the Elephant in the Room to the Holy Spirit.”

Participants were invited to imagine themselves in the presence of Jesus and then to imagine themselves in the presence of Jesus with someone with whom they disagree. Each person wrote down hopes and fears for themselves and for the person with whom they disagreed and placed both at the foot of the cross.

“This worship service created time and space for the Spirit to move among us,” said Beth Yoder, associate pastor at Salford Mennonite Church in Har­leysville, Pa. “I know without doubt that the full gamut of beliefs about this question was represented.”

Yet, at the end of the service these people gathered together, prayed together and wept together at the foot of the cross.

As each person in the room remembered his or her own relationship with God and then remembered that even those who vehemently disagree with them are also beloved children of God, tears flowed.

“There were tears throughout the room, sometimes quiet sobbing, as each of us felt our own vulnerability and need for God’s Spirit — our fears and hopes for the church, for beloved people,” Yoder said.


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