humn 469 from the 1982 Hymnal Episcopal Church

there’s a wideness in God’s mercy


am not always aware of it, but there is an aspect of myself that peers out at the moving parts of my family every day on the lookout for moments of cohesion. They are flickering to be sure, the occasions upon which the wills of five very different people coalesce to become a collective initiative, each one their own distinct part of some shared design. They are not impossible, however; they glint at you for a heartbeat before becoming obscured again, wiggly green bits of magic falling through your fingers only to bury themselves in the ground at your feet.

On Sunday, we made it to the end of a church service that, while not overlong in length, sure managed to feel that way by the time it was over. To the right of me in the pew, Roy had brought a friend who was entirely more interesting than the sermon and Peaches couldn’t be bothered to stand up at the appropriate times without prompting. To my left, Marcel was really throwing himself into a full-body interpretation of his sadness over a perceived slight (there are many, you understand). For my part, I was itchy and hot and ready to go home, all tired out from poking my children to get them to act right and wondering how someone could preach an entire sermon without modulating the tone of their voice once.

But then the organ began playing the last hymn. I fanned through the pages and found myself looking at a song I love.

“Hey,” I announced happily to no one in particular, “I love this song!”

Peaches looked up at me and smiled, excited to find a place where she might fit into my sudden sunniness.

“I know this one,” she said, following my finger on the page to find her place.

“You do love this song,” Roy agreed, spotting an access point through which he might re-enter the presumed reason for our presence in the pew, worship.

We sang the words together, loud and louder still, Peaches confidently off-key, Marcel momentarily distracted from his angst. In that tiny moment we were connected in some semblance of thought and deed and it was this as much as it was Peaches’ brave singing that made me so happy: proof that the five of us are capable of such harmony, even for a instant before it flashes, with all the temporal green of summer, out of sight.