It was almost a year ago, in fact when you read this it will be over a year since I left Shishmaref, Alaska and the people of Shishmaref Lutheran Church, which is to say all of Shishmaref, for when you’re the only church or gig in town everyone belongs, everyone comes to you for baptisms, weddings and of course funerals. It was an experience like no other and it still is shaping me a year later. I left there on July 5, but on June 30 the church gathered for what they call “Singspiration!” A time of singing, testifying, giving thanks and praying. They held it on a Sunday night. The reflection below is taken from my journey. It was written late in the night after that Singspiration! I share it with you this day.
“Last Sunday, six months of service coming to an end. Six months of their gift to me, their deep grace, their faithful spirit. Reflected in all that has happened. Did I struggle here at times? Hell yes I did, those first few days of cold, the heat that would not work, the dark of winter’s night came close to overwhelming me. Yet the dark gave way to the light of God’s grace reflected by these people. Basketball games to gather at. Jokes to be shared. Laughs that brought light into the darkness and of course the singing, singing like no other singing I’d heard. Time became suspended as their voices were raised. Authenticity found in the singing of their native tongue. Wow! It will take months to process all this.
“The last Singspiration that moved me to tears as I saw tears in their faces too. No longer impatient for it to come to a close but reveling in it. Sitting in the back, sometimes singing with them. The intertwining of my own spirit and theirs. Do I believe in the Spirits of this place? Surely so! How can you not believe? It shows forth in the land and in their faces. It shows forth in their sadness and deep grief! It makes itself known each encounter I have with them. God please don’t let me forget a minute of it. God let me embed it into all that I do.”
Let us pray...
Oh Holy One do not let us forget the gift of others. The gift of their stories, their laughter and their crying. The stories they pass on to their children and their grandchildren for generations are filled with wisdom. Their lives are filled with your grace and they overflow into ours. Help us this day in the continued troubles that we draw strength from you and from their faithfulness to you and to each other. Amen.