Yesterday morning in worship, I had the opportunity to sit in the pews at the first church I served. While I had a part to play, I also got to sit back and worship with the people.
A toddler was next to me and at one point, he leaned in really close, and propped up against me. He sat there for some time, flipping through the hymnal upside down, completely unaware of the fact I was a total stranger to him. The lack of boundaries spoke to a sense of safety and comfort in the walls of the building we were celebrating.
This morning, I was on a flight and the entire time, my leg and arm and side touched the person next to me. Seats keep getting smaller and we keep getting bigger, after all. Perhaps it is the assumed loss of personal space on a flight that allows one to sit, so utterly close, and not be uncomfortable.
But I am also aware that there is something profoundly human about touch. It is real connection. You cannot ignore the other exists when you are touching.
At a meeting on Saturday, we expressed the prayers of our hearts as we remembered our baptism. Each had the opportunity to come to the font, touch the water and speak.
Yet, I also recognize now, a loss of an opportunity to touch another’s head or hand in the process.
Some of our prayers were so personal and deep that we needed to touch one another to offer comfort, strength, hope, solidarity. Unprompted, we neglected to do so.
How can we share such physical proximity with strangers and not do so with those with whom we are treading this journey of faith?
I found myself fighting an urge to get up and embrace a friend as she prayed, unsure of why I refrained. Our vulnerability in those moments begged for touch, for human connection. When I finally did so, rushing towards her, pulling her in my arms, even if for a brief moment, I felt like even though things in this world are utterly broken, all shall be well. Not in a pie-in-the sky naïve way, but in the hope and coherence that allows us to take one step forward.
Today, I gather with colleagues to talk about the role of religion in public health. Our bodies, physical touch, acknowledging the dignity of another person have to play a role.
Hold someone’s hand today. Touch their shoulder. Make eye contact. BE the BODY if CHRIST to one another.