Roberto is a new friend, one who stumbled upon The Dale just weeks ago. With his permission I share this moving piece that he wrote about his first experience. He read it aloud to a handful of us just yesterday. As indicated in this story, Roberto has experienced shunning and deep loss, and so it is no small deal that he is daring to join us on Sundays. We are grateful for his presence and perspective, and for the actions of the woman who enfolded not just me, but all of us that day.

By Roberto Angelis Lyra

I have a confession. Something happened this past Sunday which brought me to my knees.

Dreamt of a church called “Beautifully Broken” where both pastor and congregants melded as one. Among a handful of souls – all but 3 out of tune – the music moved with grace. Gently shaking me awake, an angel beckoned I come, whispering the word “Family” – six forgotten letters to this ancient heart.

Suffice, knowing many such dreams have been prophetic, I refused to awaken, lest one hearken the summons or dare stiff a messenger. Kept hitting snooze, knowing no services would be held after eleventh hour.

That still, small voice…

A glint in my eye, I challenged the Spirit, ‘No way in Hell there’s a service anywhere in Toronto on a long weekend!’ Google chuckled in response, revealing one but a stone’s throw from home.

And what is “Home” without the ones you love…….

It was high noon and I was dead. Damn it, the service was at 2! This meant I had 2 full hours to prepare for crossing Queen West, where gospel awaited a disgraced cowboy.

An old flickering film entered my mind. “Forgive me Father, for I’m About to Sin!” Me and church and steeple eyes are strange bedfellows indeed.

Upon approach, one encountered a hidden gem, as it were an armoire’s entrance to Narnia. Interior of which once might’ve been regal, seemed shattered as life itself.

I fit right in.

Ten, perhaps fifteen parishioners were scattered amongst benches used to warming considerably more bums. What’s one more, I thought.

“Women shall NOT speak in churches!” rang through conditioning as a female pastor arose. I groaned inwardly at how they which raised me were the very reason I disbelieved.

With genuine tone, she taught about ways of Jesus, partial to suffering and those of the fringe, befriending any outcast by neighbour… one rejected of kin.

My eyes began to sting.

She continued with words touching my core despite their simplicity, stirring matter lingering beyond the deep.

More she expressed, ever greater this proverbial lump at throat.

That was when her voice began to crack. Slow recognition how she too, was dealing with trauma far too great any bear alone…

Openly weeping, the preacher apologized for inability to continue, expressing anniversary of her mother’s passing…

Another thing one did not do in the cult, was interrupt “Holy” service.

As the preacher cried outright, an elderly woman stood, shifting aside her walker, offering, “Sweetheart, can I give you a hug..?”

It wasn’t a question. Grandma was on a mission!

The sweet septuagenarian rose from her pew, becoming surrogate mother to a grown, grieving child – unaware that for me, She Was the Complete Sermon!

God knows all I ever needed was to hold and be held by my mother… one who still shuns me in the name of Religion and all things untrue.

Lord, I pray our day will come…and I might see you…

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