Church of Our Saviour

21 Marathon Street | Arlington, Massachusetts | 781-648-5962

“Embodying Faith,” A Reflection on COS by Debra Rose

Embodying is important in my church as we live into our call to be an inclusive, welcoming, and compassionate community committed to justice for all.

Embodying faith must be done collectively and individually. As a Christian community, we are to be the body of Christ in the world. As individuals, we bring the light of Christ to others by our compassionate presence and righteous actions.

What has this meant for Church of Our Saviour in Arlington, Massachusetts?

During worship at Church of Our Saviour, the presence of the Holy Spirit is palpable. Through the ebbs and flows of the liturgy, it feels as if God’s breath is filling the sanctuary, flowing around and through us. We inhale and His love refreshes us like the oxygen refreshing our blood. We exhale and feel strengthened to do His work in the world. Our minds are challenged and engaged by sermons that draw on scripture and scholarship, but come from the heart and soul, inspired by God. Our bodies are nurtured by the Body of Christ, ther Bread of Heaven, and the Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation. We touch and are touched in gestures of peace and by hands of healing.

These gifts are given to us to help us become the Body of Christ in the world. A world that is broken. A world that needs us to share these gifts. To struggle and sacrifice. A world full of challenges.

Fourteen years ago, our parish faced a challenge that tested us. We were in search for a new rector. I was a member of the search committee and we had narrowed our choice to two candidates. The name we decided to give the vestry was that of a dynamic preacher with strong pastoral skills. She was also a lesbian living with her partner of several years. While the search committee knew she would be the first openly gay rector and had contemplated what impact this might have, we perhaps naively believed that this wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) matter. While most vestry members welcomed our choice, a few were vehemently opposed, either because of their own disapproval, or because they felt the choice would tear the parish apart.

I was also junior warden at the time, and together with other parish leadership, we needed to bring all the gifts of our faith to this challenge. Painful choices had to be made and difficult questions asked. We entered into a prayer-filled process, engaging people in dialogue, praying for one another, forgiving one another when anger and bitterness surfaced, loving one another when our differences seemed too painful to bear. Oddly enough, there are a number of people who came to our parish for the first time during this period, and have stayed to this day because they were drawn by how we faced this challenge.

Several people did leave the parish because of this call. But our work continued to be God’s healing presence. We reached out to them with compassion and acceptance and sorrow. And we cared for one another in our own brokenness. We also welcomed many newcomers who were drawn by the choice we had made, people who had long been marginalized and now felt welcome, people who had never before been able to breathe freely and inhale God’s love in community with others.

Our parish is now a marvelously diverse and rich place. We recently installed an outside elevator to make our space accessible to all. We continue to ask difficult questions, to love unconditionally, to work for justice, and to welcome all.

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