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Kyries, hymns of praise and blessings

'This is part of what it means to be created in God’s image—resilient always seek to choose life, even in the face of suffering.'

102820 N DG Pastor Anne Hokenstad.jpg
Anne Hokenstad is the new lead pastor at American Lutheran Church in Worthington. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

“How do I love thee? let me count the ways” is the opening line to Elizabeth Barret Browning’s sonnet penned long go. Throughout the pandemic, I lived into a faith practice of counting the ways that God was present around me. This wee little practice of asking the triune God, “how do you love me, O God, show me the ways” guided me as I sheltered in faith and hoped for a day when the pandemic was on the distant horizon.

One bit of truth I’ve learned about the nature of a pandemic, is that it doesn’t so much fade away to a distant shore, rather dynamics of a pandemic are about seasons and the transitioning between this time and that.

At American Lutheran Church, ELCA, where I serve as pastor, we all are learning that we have a new church with an emerging mission to attend to. Oh, yes, there are aspects of our community from before the pandemic. These familiar ways are like old friends. However, we are exploring how we have been shaped recently through our sorrows, griefs and loss as well as joys, surprises and hope when we are together as a church and when we are apart from one another.

I have asked the good folks of American Lutheran to adopt a new faith practice to accompany the familiar ones of daily scripture reading, prayer and care for others. It is called “Kyries, Hymns of Praise and Blessings." In this faith practice, each person is asked to answer three basic questions: 1) Name a time when you have asked for God’s mercy; 2) What hymns of the faith were on your playlist in the past fifteen months? And 3) what blessings did you experience?

One of my Kyries goes like this: “I am waiting to hear if one of my loved ones has been infected with Covid-19 after going to an event in a place that did not support the wearing of face coverings. Lord, have mercy."

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Contemporary hymn writer Marty Haugen wrote an Advent hymn, which incorporated verses from Psalm 95. The refrain begins with these words: “For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits.” My hymn of praise playlist was mostly silence. A quieter world, because most of us were mandated to shelter in place as a form of public health safety. In the quietness of the world around me, I found the beauty of God’s created order spinning along to the music of the spheres.

The blessing that still astounds me is the blessing that comes when one learns to trust the innate resiliency God is poured in our bones, muscles and imaginations. I remember feeling anxious about how to do pastoral care when I couldn’t read others' facial expressions. It wasn’t long before all of us learned how to notice a smile, a frown or a smirk by watching eyes, ears and foreheads. I continue to live the gift of resiliency of people. I suspect that this is part of what it means to be created in God’s image—resilient always seek to choose life, even in the face of suffering.

I invite you into this faith practice. For in the naming of our kyries, our hymns of praise and our blessings, we will begin to name how this waning season in our personal and shared life has changed us. Go a step further and invite others to practice this way of naming and making meaning around you. If you cannot find anyone to listen to your kyries, hymns of praise and blessings, I will. You are invited to share, and together we will hold the wonder that is your life.

Anne Hokenstad is the lead pastor at American Lutheran Church in Worthington.

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