Monday, July 20, 2009

Betty's Diner

We had a really special service in church yesterday. Kim was inspired by the Carrie Newcomer song, Betty's Diner. The message of the song is that the community that often forms in local diners is one similar to one that forms in a church family. Here is the chorus:

Here we are all in one place
The wants and wounds of the human race
Despair and hope sit face to face
When you come in from the cold

Let her fill your cup with something kind
Eggs and toast like bread and wine
She's heard it all so she don't mind

The service was really beautiful. Kim gathered together a worship team for this service and they set up the sanctuary to look like a diner - tables and chairs instead of rows, bulletins that looked like menus and a pot-luck breakfast buffet that rivaled those put together on the Disney Cruise Line.

The concept of the service was centered around the concept of the song verses - outlining individual testimonies of the "diners" - who they are and where they are on life's journey. When it gets around to the chorus, Betty invites in and serves each of the diners - no matter who they are or where they are on life's journey. Does this sound familiar? I wonder if Carrie Newcomer has ever heard of the UCC. The worship team had recruited some ready and willing volunteers to "be the verses," to give their testimonies of what brought them to "Pilgrimage's Diner," of where they are on life's journey. In between each testimony, the congregation sang together the chorus of Betty's Diner.

I had never really thought about the connection between a church community and a diner community. And yet - it makes so much sense!! At one point during the 10:00 "seating" I started collecting plates as people were done with them. Someone thanked me and I replied with a smile, saying "once a waitress always a waitress!!" I LOVED waitressing. I worked at a place that sounds very similar to Betty's Diner. It was a local favorite in a small town, catering both to locals and visitors, to the wealthy and to the financially struggling, to the smiling and the scowling, to the elated and the somber. Some days I turned the sign and locked the doors feeling drained, like I wouldn't be able to get up and face the crowd the next day. Some days I was energized. But no matter what - someone had taught me something that day.

It's funny - I've heard ministers say the same thing about serving churches.

The thing I like about diners is that EVERYONE has a story. When I was waitressing, it was easy to hear those stories. People opened up to me about their marriages and divorces, vacations and educations, new houses and cars, a documentary they got hooked on the night before and (some of my favorite stories) their experiences on the Appalacian Trail (Kent, CT is a popular stop-off town for the trail and a lot of hikers came in the restaurant). What's a shame is that - because people would sit at their own tables and talk to people they came with - diners never got to hear each other's stories. I'm ashamed to admit that ever since I hung up my apron I haven't heard quite as many stories when I walk into a diner.

The joy I have to share today is that at Pilgrimage diners always get to hear each other's stories. Between joys and concerns, the growing popularity of social networking sites like facebook and an easy e-mail program that can quickly send messages church wide, we all have the opportunity to hear each other's stories. You quickly realize that - even as a (using myself as an example) straight, white, married young adult who's struggling through graduate school - you have a lot in common with people who - on the surface - seem drastically different from who you are. We all struggle. We all rejoice. We can all come together to praise God.

I wonder how I can find the same community in the strangers I meet at Waffle House.

I hate watching the news. I really do. Why do differences turn into hatred, intolerance and violence?

They don't have to. We are all God's children. Despite our differences, we can all share a meal together. That's the beauty of Jesus' message and the beauty of how this song translates it into everyday life. The trick now is to translate it into every day life. It's easy to share communion with a group of people who belong to the same church. It's not as easy to do this with people we meet in our day to day lives - people who disagree with us, people who are marginally different from us, people who just infuriate us.

The beauty of Jesus' message is that we are all God's children. Despite our differences, we can all share a meal together.

The trick now is to translate it into every day life.

Here's the song. I encourage you to listen to it and to think of ways to can meet people wherever they are on life's journey.

1 comment:

  1. I totaly agree with you. This song reminds me of people I meet at church, on the stree, and in life. As a former waitress as well I love the fact that the church was turned into a diner and people told their stories.


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