Sunday night, my students were dismayed to learn that we will be away from church on the Sunday closest to All Saints. “But can we reschedule?!” they queried, “Can we still sing ‘I sing a song of the saints of God’? BECAUSE THAT’S IMPORTANT.”
I didn’t take much convincing. All Saints may be one of the most Episcopal feasts we have, right up there with some of the more incarnational celebrations we partake in. That feast when we recall our place amidst the countless throngs of those who have come before us, and those who stand around us now, all working and serving God and God’s reign. It’s the feast when we celebrate the fact that we are never alone.
Twenty years ago, the communion of saints idea got repeated often in the creed, and celebrated in songs. We avow our belief in the communion of saints in the Nicene Creed every week, and we sing of its glory each time we praise “all the saints, who from their labors, rest.”
But it’s become clear over the past few days and months that the communion of saints now reveals itself in additional ways.
During General Convention, at the budget hearings, the first time I stood to testify at the microphone, I got across the room only to realize that I had entirely forgotten what I wanted to say. While I tried to figure out something semi-coherent about funding college ministry, I shifted my cell phone in my hands. Suddenly, it started to vibrate…and vibrate, and vibrate. I glanced down, and saw texts appearing on my screen. Texts of encouragement from people I hadn’t even noticed in the room. Twitter messages of people who had announced to the world that I would be saying something, and they were proud. My little phone was shaking itself to bits in my hands, with the silent encouragement and love of the people around me. In a flash, I remembered who and what I was there for, and the words started flowing.
That community of the saints that supports us when we need it is always around us–we just need to reach out and grab hold of it. And that looks different for different people, in different times and places. In the past few days, I’ve haunted Twitter and Facebook, watching the pictures and the updates from my friends in New York and along the East Coast; checking in again and again, sending prayers along the ether. We tweeted back and forth to each other through the worst of the storm’s attack, reporting the sound of the wind, showing the rising water, asking if someone had been heard from, or if someplace had been checked on. A community formed, out of the howling darkness of a hurricane, and across the country.
It’s through ad hoc communities like this that God’s love for us and for the world finds tangible expression. It’s when we reach out to one another in love and concern that our faith finds a concrete form. Strange as it seems, moments like these are when the truth of what we sing about shines through: all are one in thee for all are thine.”