Let's make Confession something real.
Every church does Confession a bit differently. For some, it is a personal prayer; for others, it is done one-on-one with a Priest; in the Presbyterian Church (USA), it is generally a unison prayer (picked out by the pastor) followed by a time of silent prayer and then an "Assurance of Pardon" where the pastor assures you that God forgives you. And then, of course, we sing about how grateful we are that God forgives us.
In the LGBTQ community, this can be a very painful part of faith. It is a reminder that the church believes or at least historically believed that our very beings are sinful in nature. I remember sitting in a worship service back in 2014 that acknowledged this pain. I don't remember the exact wording, but the woman giving the Call to Confession (where the worship leader introduces the Prayer of Confession) in essence said, "You are not sin on legs. You are a child of God, and you are loved." When I repeated those words to my own congregation, reminding them that this is not a time where God wants to catch us in our mistakes but a time for us to go to God as a child goes to a parent seeking comfort and assurance, many members came to me in tears afterwards. Like me, they had never considered confession in those terms.
Confession is hard. It's hard for a child to admit to a parent or teacher when they've done something wrong. It's hard to own up to something at work and admit that something went wrong because you didn't do as much as you could/should have. It's hard to confess to others, and it's even harder to confess to ourselves.
But church adds in an entirely new layer. For me, confessing in church is difficult because I know that everyone around me may have a different definition of sin than I do. I am certain there are some in my congregation who believe it is sinful that I had a 6-year sexual relationship with another woman. For others, they might be fine with the same-sex part but not the part where we weren't married (oh the irony). I don't believe either of those issues are sinful.
So how can I make confession an effective part of my life? Another blog I follow touched on this very topic recently. Renee opens with "Confession is important. There are times when we need to take stock of our vision and recognize the ways we have fallen short of the values we want to embody." Let's face it - we all have different understandings of Scripture. Heck, for some, Scripture isn't even a guiding force in life. But the idea of confession is universal, so how can we make this work? How can I make this work for me?
This blog is not meant to have answers. If anything, this blog is an opportunity for me to throw out a ton of questions; I won't claim to have answers, though I might occasionally have suggestions.
At work recently, I have had my staff and volunteers write out our core values and hang them up on a wall in the office. They have a word cloud of words to choose from - we each picked our top three that best represented what we value. We then filled out posters that say, "My name is _____, and I stand for _____, _____, and _____." This has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other a little better but also to get to know ourselves a little better. The diversity of our answers has been really inspiring.
Mine says, "My name is Kimberlee, and I stand for Respect, Empathy, and Courage."
So here's my idea for Confession. When have I failed at showing respect to others? When have I failed at feeling empathy for others? When have I lacked courage? And rather than wait for someone from a pulpit to assure me that I am forgiven, I'm going to ask a follow-up question: How can I fix it?
Let's be truly honest - Confession alone isn't enough. If there's no follow-up, then it's no different than a forced apology. So let's make it something real.
The 2014 service I reference was held by MoreLight Presbyterians at the General Assembly of the PC(USA) in Detroit.