One of the things I hear most often when I share the story of My 52 Weeks of Worship is…well, what did you learn? Here is a list of 52 Things I learned during a year where I made a commitment to visit a different place of worship every week, whether that place of worship reflected my religious tradition or not. During that year, I visited 61 churches, temples, mosques, shuls, synagogues, covens, living rooms, and other places of worship in the USA, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Nigeria and South Africa:
52. Sometimes when you start a journey, you have very little idea where you are going to end up. But with a little faith, you can end up having a more amazing experience than you ever imagined.
51. Home is a good place to start, and often a good place to visit; but out there is an amazing world full of people and places that can be blessings to you if you just let them be.
50. Sometimes it’s nice to take family to new places with you.
49. Words matter.
48. Just because something doesn’t resonate with me, doesn’t mean that it can’t resonate with many other people.
47. There is a Catholic mass starting or ending all the time, somewhere, nearby.
46. People, generally, like chocolate chips.
45. Family is the first congregation.
44. The length of time one spends in a place of worship may or may not be related to the size of the blessing received there.
43. Sometimes, its nice just to be quiet, and listen.
42. If there is a beautiful place of worship nearby that you have always wanted to visit, you should go. Soon.
41. Sometimes it’s okay to be late to church because you are waiting to share the experience with a friend or loved one.
40. Just because an entire worship service is in a language that you don’t speak, doesn’t mean that you won’t understand what is going on.
39. Sometimes a wonderful message can come from the youngest of messengers, or the oldest.
38. Just because a lot of people tell you something is weird, doesn’t mean it is.
37. The size of a congregation may or may not be related to the size of the blessings that one can find there.
36. Sometimes the pastor/priest/imam/rabbi *is* speaking directly to you.
35. Outdoor services are fun.
34. If you have questions, there are kind people everywhere who will answer them for you.
33. Being able to walk to church is nice.
32.Gospel music always feels like home.
31. Sometimes church can be hilarious. Sometimes that is intentional. Sometimes it is unintentional. Both are awesome. Because laughing is awesome.
30. The people that you love stay in your heart, and near your spirit even after they are gone from this earth.
29. Meditation is easy, and difficult, and wonderful and worth it.
28. Everyone should, at some point in life, go to a place where they totally stick out, and they have no idea what the rules are. Why not have a wild, humbling and unforgettable experience?
27. Sometimes when you go to service, you can look out the window and see the President’s house.
26. Sometimes you get sleepy, or cranky, or disinterested in a worship service, or worship in general. It’s ok. Go back next week, or go somewhere else.
25. It is quite ok to believe one thing, and stand shoulder to shoulder with people who believe something else.
24. Be who you are. No need to pretend. Just respect that other’s have the right to do the same.
23. Where McHenry, IL and Shipshewanna, IL are.
22. What a sitar looks like up close and personal.
21. Sometimes, learning from children is the best source.
20. It’s ok to come into a service, listen, and then leave without talking to a single soul.
19. Food and worship go hand in hand
18. For every time you meet someone who does a disservice to their worship tradition, there are a handful of others who help you to see the great things about that tradition. Don’t judge a religion based on the jerk or jerks you may meet who say they practice that religion.
17. Sometimes, when you visit a place of worship, you will be completely confused. Sometimes only partially. But sometimes, you will make a complete connection. It is all awesome.
16. Sometimes services are, in fact, too long.
15. Online services, or services on TV can be just what the Dr. ordered.
14. The kindness of strangers is real.
13. Sometimes it’s a good idea to bring something to cover your head.
12. Always wear socks. Sometimes taking off your shoes is required.
11. Worship happens where it happens.
10. Google first, then go.
9. There is a reason why the word “intense” exists.
8. Worship is happening somewhere, every day, at all times.
7. There *is* healing for your spirit.
6. Power Point shows up more than you would think in a house of prayer.
5. Be Humble.
4. Sometimes the best thing to do is just stand up when everyone stands, and sit when everyone sits, until you figure out what the heck is going on.
3. Approaching any unfamiliar situation with an open heart and good intentions is a good first step.
2. It is about God, and community, and experience, and worship, and culture, and family, and love.
1. Most people are doing the best they can to do the best they can.
The rest of what I learned – all my stories,week by week…are in the book! :-)