My 6th grade teacher, Miss O’Meara, introduced me to the aphorism “so near and yet so far away”. I was a curious 12 year old and struggled to understand the meaning of this contradictory wisdom. Whatever was she talking about, I wondered. Miss O’Meara was fearful and authoritarian. Asking was not an option. I would have to figure it out for myself.
It took me decades. So near- a friend and soulmate who moved to Ohio-so far away from hugs and conversation. So near- my teenaged son showered with maternal love and spiritual embrace- so far away in rebellion and independence. And now, volunteering at Worcester Fellowship, I am having a current experience of this contradictory wisdom.
In the early weeks of Thursday Café, I went out to the sidewalks of Pleasant Street adjacent to All Saints. My purpose was to do street hospitality. I put out a simple invitation to passersby: “The church is open. Would you like to come in for a hot lunch?” Folks, most generally responded in one of two ways- either accepting the invite or saying “thank you”-what a good service to offer.
I am member of All Saints. I am a Lay Eucharistic Minister. I am on the vestry. I have an assignment on the greeter rotation. I am “known to the treasurer”. In all of these roles, I am in the church building proper. It is a place familiar and safe in ways practical and transcendent. By contrast, the sidewalk felt quite unfamiliar and not necessarily safe. Abandoned buildings, rushing traffic and many pedestrians looking both worn and worn out.
This sidewalk experience was spiritually startling. How could life inside the church feel so safe and predictable when life on the church’s sidewalk felt so rough and complex? Surely a manifestation of near and far away.
My prayer is that, in this case, the near and far away move a lot closer together.
Gail B. 02/18/2016