“I don’t care what you believe,” says Howard. “Belief is the red herring. You can believe in God until you’re blue in the face and it accomplishes nothing. It’s what you do that counts.”
This is by far my favorite moment in the 11:15 service of Jubilee! on Sunday, October 26, 2014. Coming in late and sneaking into what looked like the back row (which turns out to actually be the front row with Howard standing at a podium just several feet away) with a heavy feeling on my chest. I need this moment today. I need to believe that I can come in off the streets of downtown Asheville and need no reason to be here, to slide in here and feel welcome.
I need this moment, because I am an agnostic, for lack of a better word. Or maybe call it a doubtful, cautious believer. There have been times in my life when I felt the presence of something greater than human kind, and there have been other times when I felt convinced that I had imagined that thing, that I believed there was something there because I wanted it to be there. I pray. But I usually end up praying for myself, or for the pain I feel to end, and this causes me to wonder if we believe in God just because the possibility of Him or Her or It makes the prospect of living our lives seem more doable. I see a synchronicity in life sometimes, but I feel we say, “Everything happens for a reason,” because we have the luxury of being able to say it.
Jubilee! I need this place to be here, even though I hardly ever come here. Could there be a worse way to campaign for the existence of athing? But there is something about Jubilee! that is close to my heart, even without regularly attending. I have been only a handful times over the course of the past couple years that I’ve lived in Asheville. There is a warmth here that says it doesn’t matter where you come from, we want you. Everyone wants to be wanted.
From my first visit to Jubilee! there was not a second of boredom. Instead I was too busy scratching my head asking myself, “What are they doing now?” The service began with Howard holding incense or something up to the four winds? I’m not sure what was going on really, but it was interesting stuff. Then he seemed to toss little words of wisdom at his captive audience, words centering around a theme, in between the music, which I guarantee is not like music you have ever heard at a church service before.
The point in the service when we offered peace to one another was beautiful. People who I’ve never seen before came up to me and gave me a hug, stating, “Peace be with you.” And I knew they meant it.
At several moments we all held hands. There was something powerful about it, and I am not the type to admit it. Of course at first, my reaction is that I don’t want to hold hands with anyone other than a pretty girl. But something happened here, the room was connected in a special way. It felt like you knew people you didn’t know.
One of my closest friends was––probably still is, but I’m not totally sure––an atheist. He went to Jubilee! and literally shed tears by the end of the service. It really isn’t about what you believe.