You've got a place at the welcome table,Joy was sitting between me and her respite provider, fingers in her ears as the singing went on around her, but content enough to eat some pretzels and stay with us in the service a little while.
You've got a place at the welcome table some of these days,
Then came the call to worship, a responsive reading:
The world is filled with the glory of God, and we say,A light came into Joy's face as she heard me and the congregation chime in with the first "Thank you!" and she responded too, with an audible "geh guh!" into the breath between the congregation's part and the leader's part. These were words she knew, and a sequence she could relate to! I quickly brought the bulletin down to her eye-level, and spoke the next "Thank you!" with an extra smile and emphasis for her, and she spoke up again too. By the end of the litany, I was holding her hand and touching the "Thank you!" with her each time it came up -- those pre-reading practices from school have broad application, it seems.
The hills and valleys are filled with colour, and we say,
The vines and trees are filled with fruit, and we say,
Our tables are overflowing with food, and we say,
Our life is filled with love of family and friends, and we say,
We fill this house of God with our voices, saying,
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, as we enter into this service of thanksgiving and praise.
-- written by Carol Penner
Such smiles and speaking up from Joy! She'd never before connected with anything in a worship service quite so enthusiastically. And in the glow of that connection, she was able to stay with us longer into the service than she usually makes it: through the next hymn ("Come, Ye Thankful People Come") and the lighting of the peace lamp and the Children's Time, which was also all about Thank You.
When we got to the Joys and Concerns time in the service, close to the end and long after Joy had bailed, I felt moved to speak up about what had happened during the call to worship. I pointed out to my brothers and sisters gathered together there, that even though I didn't know whether Joy had been saying "thank you" or "you're welcome!" as she piped up during the call to worship, she had connected with "Thank You!" and that was enough -- and deeply moving to me. And I thanked the congregation for making a welcoming space for Joy's participation to happen, on her terms.
We had a place at the welcome table, indeed.
I was further moved last night to find the following Thanksgiving Day Facebook status-update from the worship leader who had planned the service:
Lesson this week. All you have to be able to connect with is "thank you". That is enough. That is everything.We've had so many thanksgivings in the past couple of weeks, they've kind of been tumbling over one another. I could write about at least three new Joy-milestones we hit just yesterday in our Thanksgiving day-trip and family gathering! The connecting-with-thank-you moment at church had receded in my mind amidst the other exciting happenings.
I thank my friend for bringing our own lesson back for me, in such well-chosen and meaningful words.
I share that lesson with you, dear readers, surrounded in its original Joy-context, so that it can be yours now too.