Some days church is like this:

We talked about Romans 12:9-21 in class, mostly thinking out loud about times something had been challenging for us: was that “not avenging ourselves”? was that “hating what was evil and holding fast to what was good”? was that loving? Practically, day by day, making those decisions requires … persevering in prayer, for sure, and also a lot of wisdom, and also, it seems, “learning from experience,” which is to say, making a lot of mistakes.

And then it turned out worship was “Youth Sunday,” which in practice often means some wonderful music that teenagers would sing at camp, or something on a video, that I (at least) do not know the tune to, which is fine, but I notice it and wonder whether others feel that way on lots of other Sundays, which is a sad feeling.

One of the daughters of the congregation spoke, in some sense on Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Luke 12:22-31. Mostly in thanks for the church having been a place that supported her, and supported her Christian faith, and sending her to camps and conferences, and all that. But also in rebuke, for promises having been made some years ago, when the last youth director moved away and the congregation didn’t hire a replacement (“because we have three high school students” and “we can’t justify that expense” – which, to be fair, was not inaccurate, but when something is someone’s job, that something tends to get done), about how “there will be something for youth” and “people will make sure that …” and that those promises had not been kept and that kind of sucked. So: in the future, don’t do that.

And then, after worship, because it is painful to come face to face with our omissions and how they have hurt people, there were rumblings of “who made those promises?” and “whose responsibility was that really?” – but I think, honestly, not as much as there might have been 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago, and there was also talk of how that is not the main point here, so maybe we have made some progress. There were also sincere apologies. And I think there will be some productive soul-searching, that will lead in the direction of some better practices, that will benefit … someone, in the future.

We do so badly at loving one another with mutual affection. Hopefully – by the grace of Jesus Christ, presumably – we learn from the experience, when people are gracious enough to share it with us.

painting of medieval church in summer