Here’s Part II of “The Enchanted Congregation.” You can read Part I here.
For some time, the congregation muddled through from Sunday to Sunday despite the undercurrent of dissatisfaction that dribbled into almost every activity. But eventually feelings of restlessness and boredom made their way to the surface, and folks began to talk about how things had been different once, when they had their fairy godmother with them. What we need, some folks said, is a new fairy godmother, someone who can wave a wand and makes us feel the same enchantment we used to feel. Other folks pointed out that times had changed, and that what might have been enchanting in the past might seem merely old-fashioned today. What we need, they said, is a magical consultant to come in and tell us what other congregations are doing to stir things up. A third group of folks said, Nope! What we need is a marketing wizard to help us attract new people who will reinvigorate us. All we need is some new blood around here and things will be much better. They talked among themselves for a long, long time, never reaching a decision on what to do next.
When it looked like things would never change, one of the elders of the congregation suddenly came down with a mysterious illness and fell into a deep, deep sleep. While he was sleeping he had a dream, and in that dream he saw the congregation’s beloved fairy godmother. He saw her first as an elder, frail but wise. And he saw the world through her eyes. Everything—everywhere—was still so bright and new. Then he saw a slightly younger version of the fairy godmother. She looked a little worn and tired after a long, hard day’s work. Yet he could sense her mind was still working, dreaming of all sorts of wonderful things she still might do with her life. Next he saw the fairy godmother as a young adult, riding the same bicycle she had used when see toured India. He traveled with her for awhile, and he felt with every beat of her heart the gradual accumulation of knowledge and understanding that would serve her well all her days. And then he saw her as a youth, and he remembered the wonder of a life yet to be fully lived, and he felt the stirrings of a fierce determination deep inside to make the world a better place. And finally, he saw the fairy godmother as a child. And he felt the veil between himself and the universe slip away until all that remained was an intense, heart-pounding passion to live, to be, to love. In this dream he realized that their fairy godmother was always more than any single congregant saw in her. Yes, she was wise, but she was strong and brave and passionate and curious, as well.
The mysterious illness soon passed as swiftly as it had appeared, and the elder awoke. He knew what had to be done. As soon as he regained his strength, he asked everyone—children, youth, young adults, older adults, and elders—to join him for a special potluck to celebrate his recovery. They decorated the parish hall and lined the walls with long tables to hold the food that everyone would bring. Together the congregants ate and talked and laughed and lauded the elder’s regained health. And when the meal was over, the elder tapped a spoon against his water glass and waited until the fellowship hall grew quiet. Once it had, the elder asked if they wouldn’t mind doing him a favor. He asked them to clear away the tables and chairs, which they gladly did. Then he asked them to line up in the center of the hall according to age, starting with the youngest congregant and ending with oldest. Once they had, the elder asked for everyone to join hands. Then he took the hand of the youngest congregant and slowly led her to the other end of the line. As he did, the rest of the congregants gradually began to shuffle along, so when he reached the other side and placed the young girl’s hand in the hand of the oldest member of the congregation, the entire group had formed a circle. Then the eldest took his place in the circle and looked around the room into every person’s eyes. As he did, he once again felt the presence of their fairy godmother—her curiosity, her passion, her courage, strength, and wisdom. The smile that grew on his face quickly spread around the room.
The elder cleared his throat. “Dear friends,” he said, “whom I love. I want to tell you about a dream.”