Sometimes you come across really powerful words by happenstance. I saw a reference to Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and ecumenical teacher who runs the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, by Brené Brown, a professor at the University of Houston and very popular author and speaker. The two combined efforts on several occasions, and at some point I am truly going to listen to the podcast that just dropped, titled “Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, and Unlearning Certainty.” Maybe that will be a Christmas gift to myself.
So I read this quote from Rohr on Facebook, in reference to a visit he had with Brown. She was talking about her favorite parts of some of his books, and she shared this quote from Rohr: “When religion does not move people to the mystical or non-dual level of consciousness, it is more a part of the problem than any solution whatsoever. It solidifies anger, creates enemies, and is almost always exclusionary of the most recent definition of ‘sinner.’ At this level, it is largely incapable of its supreme tasks of healing, reconciling, forgiving, and peacemaking. When religion does not give people an inner life or a real prayer life, it is missing its primary vocation.”
I can’t get it out of my head, and it made me think of Christmastime and the judgment that can happen around the holidays. “They only come to church at Christmas and Easter.” I’ve heard that sentence whispered right inside the church this time of year, as we observe who’s coming and going. It’s as if we’re either appalled by the behavior of complete strangers who have come to worship, or it gives us great pleasure to point out how much more faithful (hence, better) we are because we come to church more often.
When I was attending Mass faithfully most every week, part of me felt pretty superior about it. Look at how devout and Christian I was. This is not to belittle my practice, because I truly did love going to church all the time. It gave me strength and a sense of peace at a time when that was difficult to come by. But there can also be this little nagging sense of superiority sometimes.
We have to be careful, I think, to remember the good that comes from attending church and being with God in community. When we see a family or individuals come into church, we don’t need to check off a scorecard on how rarely we see them there. We’re all in this together, and if we can’t be welcoming at church, then where else do we fail to embrace one another?
So when we see people we haven’t seen in a while at a place of worship, maybe we should just smile and say hello, and be glad that someone else besides ourselves is finding what they are looking for. Be joyful and glad about it, rather than jumping straight to “they never come to church.” Hopefully they too are finding healing, reconciling, forgiving, and peacemaking inside the doors. Besides, we’re not the ones in charge of the scorecard.
With all of that in mind, I do hope we get to spend some part of the season in community with the faithful, either in a building made of bricks and mortar, or in our own homes with those we love. Below is a list of some of the holiday services on the Island.
Community Baptist Church of Gay Head
Visit communitybaptistgayhead.org or call 508-693-1539.
Christmas Day: Worship, hymn singing, scripture lessons, and prayer, 9 am.
Beacon of Hope
Visit beaconofhopemv.org or call 774-310-3343.
Christmas Eve: Worship with the First Baptist Church of Vineyard Haven, 6 pm. Christmas Day: Worship in-person and live on Facebook, 10 am.
Federated Church of M.V.
Visit federatedchurchmv.org or call 508-627-4421.
Christmas Eve: Lessons, carols, and candlelight service in the Meetinghouse, 5 pm. Christmas Day: Service in-person or online, 10 am. Christmas carol sing and the Christmas story. Monday, Dec. 26: After-Christmas bells and carols in the Meetinghouse, 10 am. Please bring your singing voices and favorite bells to church. Sunday, Jan. 1, New Year’s Day: A service of prayer to gather us into 2023, 10 am.
St. Andrew’s Church
Visit standrewsmv.org or call 508-627-5330.
Christmas Eve: Family-friendly service, 4 pm. Traditional service with music and candlelight, 9:45 pm. Christmas Day: Traditional and quiet Eucharist service, 8:30 am.
Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Parish
Visit goodshepherdmv.com or call 508-693-0342.
Christmas Eve: Mass, 4 pm, St. Augustine’s Church, Vineyard Haven; Mass, 6 pm, St. Elizabeth’s Church, Edgartown; Mass in Portuguese, 7 pm, St. Augustine’s.
Christmas Day: Mass, 9 am, St. Augustine’s Church, Vineyard Haven; Mass, 11 am, St. Elizabeth’s Church, Edgartown.
Chilmark Community Church
Visit chilmarkchurch.org or call 508-645-3100.
Christmas Eve: Service, plus lessons, carols, candle lighting, and special musical guests. Masks are optional. 5 pm. Christmas Day: Service in-person and via Zoom, 9 am. New Year’s Day: Service in-person and via Zoom, 9 am.
United Methodist Church of M.V.
Visit umc-mv.org or call 508-693-4424.
Christmas Eve: Trinity Worship Center, Oak Bluffs. Service in-person, 7 pm. Christmas Day: Trinity Worship Center. Service in-person, 10 am.
First Baptist Church
Christmas Eve: Worship with Beacon of Hope and Renewed Church, 6 pm. Christmas Day:
Worship, 10:30 am.
Grace Episcopal Church
Visit graceepiscopalmv.org or call 508-693-0332.
Christmas Eve: Festive Holy Eucharist, 5 pm. Traditional carols, 8 pm. Holy Eucharist, 8:30 pm. Christmas Day: Service, 9 am. New Year’s Day: Service in-person, 8 am, and service in-person and online, 10 am.
M.V. Hebrew Center
Visit mvhc.us or call 508-693-0745.
Thursday, Dec. 22: Candle lighting via Zoom, 5:30 pm. Friday, Dec. 23: Service, candle lighting, singing, and latkes. Registration required. 5:30 pm. Saturday, Dec. 24: Havdalah and candle lighting via Zoom, 5:30 pm. Sunday, Dec. 25: Candle lighting via Zoom, 5:30 pm.
Vineyard Assembly of God
Visit vineyardag.com or call 508-696-7576.
Christmas Eve: Candlelight service, 7 pm. Christmas Day: Service, 10:30 am. Wednesday, Dec 28: No midweek service.
First Congregational Church of West Tisbury
Visit wtcongregationalchurch.org or call 508-693-2842.
Daily through Dec. 31: All are invited to decorate the Christmas Prayer Tree on the lawn with provided ribbons, ornaments, and your prayer request. Christmas Eve: Service for all ages at the Agricultural Hall, including a Christmas pageant with an Island-wide cast of children. It concludes with “Silent Night” sung by candlelight. An offering will be collected to benefit the church and its ministries. 5 pm. Lessons and carols at the church, 10 pm. Christmas Day:
Service in-person or online, 10 am.
Faith Community Church
316 Meetinghouse Way, Edgartown. Call 774-563-8509.
Christmas Candlelight Service: Friday, Dec. 23, at 6 pm.