She’s called the “Queen of Soul” for a reason. Deep in the heart of Aretha Franklin, was a place belonging to God. Her commitment, her talent, her longing, her journey could so effectively be expressed through her greatest gift and offering; her voice. Through music, Franklin made a connection with the eternal longings of so many, from all walks of life. Deep within, I believe we long for many of the same things. Security, purpose and love rise to the top of my list, yet without notice life’s challenges can disrupt all these. The uncertainly of work, relationships, and physical health are realities all too familiar, yet the longing does not cease. Artistic expression is born out of these familiar patterns.
When I hear the reports of the faith which sustains someone as great as Franklin, I wonder about that community; the one that supported her when the ground beneath her was shifting. It comes to all of us. Aretha will return to the community who nurtured her for the last goodbye. The symmetry is beautiful.
Like many, I’ve had a little break in my routine. A holiday, time with family and seeing new things, sleeping in unfamiliar beds and random conversations with travellers along the way have all been part of this past month. Yet as vacation ended, the thought of returning to the familiar became just as exciting as leaving it. Part of the familiar for me is our community. A community which has the ability to support me if the ground were shifting beneath my feet. Being in a place where people and things are understood and familiar is incredibly important for me. My belief that the eternal is rooted in this place of security and purpose, cannot be taken for granted. The work of every generation exists in sustaining those things we all long for. Faith communities have always been a part of that work though there was a time when that work was more obviously defined. Currently, figuring out how to support and connect is difficult.
At the heart of longing for a community of faith, is the feeling of home. A soft place to land, a welcome meal in sad times, people to celebrate transitions with, a hand to hold or a listening ear when needed, all rooted in love; that feels like a community of Jesus. While you might find all those things at a local coffee shop or book club, in a community of faith there is a deep sense that we are not alone. There is a kind of hopefulness in that. Knowing that the Spirit of God, present for eternity, remains, offers the hard work of hope. Focusing on the teachings of Jesus, extending hospitality, understanding radical inclusion and welcome, and redefining mission are crucial on a journey together. While abuse and misinterpretation have provided a challenge for humans, the heart of God remains.
A faith for today, recognises that work in challenging and exciting and vital ways, as we experience life’s ups and downs and longings together. Its a privilege to be invested in that work with the people of New Glasgow at Trinity United Church.
Rev. Donna Tourneur is a minister with Trinity United Church in New Glasgow, N.S.