The church was missing one thing, though: a confession booth. Since the movie told the (based-on-a-true) story of a Roman Catholic priest who falls in love, the confession booth was an important shooting location. We didn’t have one, so they built one for temporary installment.
While you won’t find too many confession booths in Episcopal Churches, you will find Rites of Reconciliation in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 447). These rites are used when individuals want to get specific things off of their chests. The rites allow us to come before God in full and complete honesty about what we’ve “done and left undone.” Then, on behalf of the church, a priest absolves the individuals so that they may start life anew.
The interesting thing, though, is that confessions and absolutions aren’t restricted to small booths. Although the traditional confessional space is intended to maintain privacy, I have heard confessions in hospital rooms, living rooms, at people’s sick beds, and in the wide-open spaces of the church sanctuary. Wherever we are in life, God is ready to receive our “I’m sorry,” not because God wants us to feel bad about ourselves, but because God’s primary hope for you, me, and us is liberation and freedom. Freedom from the things that are holding us back – freedom from the things that are separating us from each other.
On Sunday, we will have Reconciliation Sunday. As a community, we will bring to God’s ear the ways that we, as a church, have been involved in the sin of systemic racism. Remember, though, that confession alone does not let us off the hook – confession and absolution aren’t about letting go of the responsibility that we have to “strive for justice and peace.” Confession is about setting a new course. It is about living life in a more Godward direction. Therefore, a part of the service will include a recommitment to moving towards the future that God intends for us as individuals and as a global family– a future in which all people experience true freedom.
You can read more about Reconciliation Sunday and the work of the History and Reconciliation Initiative HERE. I encourage you to be a part of the service on Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. (links to the live stream are found here). The Rev. Melanie Mullen will be our guest preacher. Melanie helped start HRI when she served on the staff of St. Paul’s. She currently serves on the Presiding Bishop’s staff as Director of Reconciliation, Justice, and Creation Care.
The old hymn tells us that “there’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.” That’s pretty big, my friends. There is room. In God’s incredible embrace, there is room for God to hear all the ways that we’ve missed the mark, and there is room for all of us to swim together in the deep, cool waters of God’s freedom and love.
Thanks be to God.
BTW, the name of the movie I mentioned above is called “The Good Catholic” starring Danny Glover. I don’t know what happened to the confession booth – I never saw it again.