Technically I'm on retreat.
Technically. Fact of the matter is, our lay ministry retreat is a half-hour drive from home, so the Chik came back for a pit stop rather than staying at a hotel. And our retreats are pretty fluid affairs -- we had an hour and a half of free time this afternoon, and I spent most of it at a Barnes and Noble, spending way too much money on music: Anonymous 4's A Mass for the End of Time, an album of Bach cantatas for the Pentecost season and some Gregorian chant. I have to tell you...I'm very easily amused. Give me some books and music and art, and I'm in the zone. It's probably divine Providence that I live in a small town, because I suspect that if I spent any amount of time in the big city, I'd be so constantly stunned by all the culture around me that I'd wind up walking in front of a bus or something: "Gollleeee!...look at that!..." Screech. Splat.
I had a real "aha" experience this week that I want to share, and will, once I process it a bit more. But until then...one of our regular training facilitators is a parish pastor from the area who has a real gift for teaching. Think back to your favorite, coolest college professor; the kind of professor who made you lose track of time, who made you want to learn more, who was always surrounded by a crowd of students after class, wanting to keep the conversation going: This guy is like that. Today he was talking about the sacraments, and how they are "rightly administered."
Class participants were asking questions about how pastors deal with situations like clueless visiting communicants, or unchurched parents coming to church and asking for a "fire insurance" baptism for their kid with no indication that they intend to follow up with any kind of meaningful Christian fellowship and education for the child. Our teacher's response, after expressing his own frustrations over people who just don't get it yet: "I think that, if we in the Church are going to err, let's err on the side of grace."
Or, as Kelly Fryer puts it, when she has to decide whether to lead with the Law foot or the grace foot, she chooses the grace foot, every time.
Amen. When we are being the Church in the world, and when we err -- which we know we're going to do, because we're not perfect -- let's err on the side of grace.