Last week I was asked to give a “witness” in my church, All Saints Pasadena. For those of you who, like myself, did not grow up in a very charismatic church, (or any church for that matter), a “witness” is when a member of the congregation gets up and [insert southern dialect here] testifies. I learned about this a few years ago when Juan and I were asked to speak in front of our congregation.
Every October our church has Stewardship season, a time when some of the church members begin telling their story about how they found All Saints Church and why they pledge money to support the church and its mission. I heard a member say that talking about money and church used to make him uncomfortable. I get that. I was uncomfortable at first too. But, once I understood that supporting my church really does support its mission of love, inclusion and justice, I felt good about making a financial pledge.
I was also nervous about having to share my story. I struggled writing about what to say. I went through several drafts and still wasn’t happy with it. Then I met with Jamie, a woman from our church who is an acting coach. (Only in LA!) She is also a blessing. Not only did Jamie sense my discomfort with my material, she helped to draw out those parts of my speech which were personal, which really told my story. I scrapped 90% of what I’d written and went back to my computer. When I focused on the intimate part of my story, the words just flowed and I ended up with a draft which I liked. I met with Jamie again and this time as I read the words, I could not get through my story without choking up at certain parts. I thought that after a few rehearsals, I would be able to get through my witness without getting emotional during the church services, but I cried all three times.
In the end, even though it was a struggle to write, and re-write and then share my story in front of my congregation, it was really a blessing. I felt uplifted by my community, as they wept along with me, appreciated my words and in the words of Sally Field, “liked me.” (This is LA, after all.)