Communal cape

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. -2 Timothy 1:5-7

A good friend recently asked me what this “laying on of hands” business is all about. She had never heard that phrase before and was rather wigged out by the sound of it.

In response I sent her this picture from my ordination 10 years ago as well as the accompanying reflection.

I’ve always loved team huddles. And so I figured this was just another team huddle with fewer high fives and a little less sweat. Sure, I felt awkward and self-conscious, but when I saw my family coming forward, followed by church members and mentors, I tried to surrender to the moment and let myself be crowded for a moment, and affirmed.

I felt transported to when I was a little girl, standing in worship at Fellowship of Hope in Elkhart, IN. Adults, whom I loved, were all around me with hands raised. I thought I spotted some sort of spiral thread or energy of some kind, and so I reached my four year old hands as high as they could go. Whatever the adults seemed to be reaching for seemed intriguing to me, even beautiful.

Unlike that moment 35 plus years ago, I’m kneeling here in this picture. Heads are bowed in prayer, arms and hands gently placed and/or folded in prayer. It strikes me that I’m like a child again, or I am at least the height I was when I had my earliest known encounters with what I considered and experienced as holy.

I remember falling into that place I sometimes go when I pray, or when I stand at the basketball free throw line—that place where people, sounds, and distractions fade and I’m just there, alone but somehow not alone, in an empty, but not-so-empty place.

My Alaskan friend Kara, who I didn’t even know was there for my ordination, was seated in the last row of the balcony. She said this moment of laying on of hands looked like a communal cape from where she was sitting.  I have always loved that thought. Church or religiosity is not her thing and certainly not part of her routine. But she wanted to be there for me, and that means more than I can express in words. She is part of this communal cape too, even if she never steps foot inside a Christian church again.

So what is laying on of hands you ask? Maybe it’s a communal reaching for this not-so-empty place where we reach out and seek encounters with the holy together in community.


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