We will continue our worship series on “Sensing God” this Sunday. Sunday’s sense is TOUCH. How do we draw the holy into life through touch? Or we might ask: How is the holy in life stolen or destroyed as a result of touch that hurts?
Many stories and experiences come to mind. For starters, I invite you to consider this reflection written by my former colleague in ministry Heidi Regier Kreider:
I went one day to visit a friend in health care – someone whose world had shrunk and abilities had diminished after suffering a stroke… the day I came she was in the lounge sitting at a table, sorting and arranging colorful bead necklaces, and large, gaudy clip-on earrings; there was a plastic tub of the jewelry on her lap in the wheelchair, and a growing display of strings of beads on the table in front of her… blue and pink, yellow and metallic green, sea-shell beads and bright purple.
Her earlier career and life experience had used the skills of careful eye-hand coordination, and attention to detail and order – here, now, she was applying that same careful attention to the task at hand – her fingers working meticulously to sort and arrange the palette of colors and shapes in front of her.
She didn’t pay much attention to me, and kept saying in a perplexed way, “I don’t know why they asked me to do this,” but her hands kept working methodically and creatively at the task. When she was finished, I picked up two of the largest, bright red clip-on earrings – and gave them to her – and to my surprise this rather practical, plain woman promptly clipped them on her ears! So I picked up another set of rather large dangly earrings and clamped them on my ears! I asked her whether she used to play dress-up as a child? Yes, she said, her face brightening – we would dress up to play church – and she went on to describe how she and her friends or siblings would sit on the steps of the porch, pass the offering and preach.
Through color and shape, touch and movement, her memories were evoked and she painted for me a vivid picture of a young girl playing the rituals of worship.
Heidi goes on to share about a talk she heard at Kidron Bethel Village by Erin Bonitto on Unlocking the Mind: Pleasure, Purpose and Peace. She remembers Erin speaking about how touch can trigger memory. Here are some of the notes Heidi took down on how various senses including touch might be tapped when visiting someone with memory loss:
- “hand-memories” – folding, sorting, sanding, painting, playing with objects, art-work, making things that would trigger memories and experiences – like my friend and the beads.
- physical human contact – hugs, kisses, touch, caring for a pet, holding a doll
- automatic responses that have been repeated over and over through the years – rituals, hymns, prayers, poems, proverbs and familiar sayings [“peace be with you”]
As we prepare to gather on Sunday I invite you to think about your own history with touch. This might trigger some good memories, as well as some bad memories. I promise I won’t force anyone to huddle together around a common light on Sunday. However, I can’t promise that I won’t show up with colorful bead necklaces, and large, gaudy clip-on earrings.