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The Other Ed emailed me this week and said, “I’d like to keep it really simple this Saturday night. Sunday morning we’re at capacity, but Saturday night is more like a prayer meeting, so let’s not even plug in. Bring your acoustic—and bring your ukulele.” As we warmed up last night, a woman walked in and she looked…rough. Dressed nicely, clean hair, makeup, but very obviously hurting—face bloated, eyes reduced to slits. She found some friends (I later learned they’d invited her), and sort of clung to them. I wondered what her story was.

We opened with: O Praise Him (Crowder) Wholly Yours (Crowder) Then we brought out the ukes and did “I Saw The Light”. The Other Ed tossed me a solo, and what I played made even me laugh. Sorry, no audio recording last night. During the first three songs I watched the woman. She clung to her friends, and was in tears for most of the first two songs. After ‘I Saw The Light’ we started a time of spontaneous prayer/scripture reading, and she spoke up. In a loud, hoarse voice, she accused the church of being irrelevant and of historically abusing its power, and finally confessed through tears that she’d lost her ability to believe the Bible had anything to say to her. She talked like she’d grown up in church. I tend to freeze up during this kind of thing. I pretended I thought we were still supposed to have our eyes closed so I could put a little distance between me and the tension. She was only ten feet away. Or did I feel tension no one else did?

Thank God for The Other Ed, Dave the Pastor and many others who have seemingly unlimited patience, compassion and wisdom. Dave prayed for her, Ed led “More Love, More Power”, and she calmed down. Ed told me to be ready for a little soloing during “More Love”. I’d been looking forward to it, playing some bluesy stuff over the minor changes, but…it started to feel really selfish and small to me, in light of the obvious condition of the woman in tears.

I found myself praying that my guitar part might somehow move her, that God would somehow use it, but even that felt self-aggrandizing. I played it anyway (what was I going to do—turn to The Other Ed and say, “I don’t feel like it now, because that woman is still crying?”), and maybe I saw it for what it was—just a small part of the music. More prayer, and we ended up with “Jesus Messiah” (Tomlin), while Dave served communion. We do a classroom-style preaching time, with questions and comments encouraged. The woman spoke up often, sometimes inappropriately, but she was listening, and she obviously knew the Bible. She asked great questions, and gave great comments. Loud, but insightful. (There’s a good band name: Loud But Insightful) It finally dawned on me—she was under the influence.

During the sermon she sat a few rows over on the  right, half facing Molly and I, and I found myself sort of involuntarily turning in my seat so I wouldn’t have to look at her. The whole time I was acutely aware of her, wondering how everyone else felt, hoping she wouldn’t do something completely out of line, wondering how it should be handled. In the end, I felt humbled—by the importance of what goes on at church, and by others ability to handle something I probably would have botched. Her need was obvious, but–what about mine? For now, I think I’ll stick to just playing the guitar and piano.

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