Every once in a while, I will re-notice the extensive use of “Amen” in Christianity. We say it at the end of the prayers, we hear it in church, and we read it throughout the bible. Every few years, when this observation comes back into my consciousness, I have to re-consider what “Amen” means, and more importantly, what it means to me. So, a few days ago, I figured I would look it up. According to Wikipedia, “Amen” is a declaration of affirmation or agreement.1 However, it has a couple of translations. Literally translated, it means, “So be it!” or “It is so!”2, but the translation that I learned as a child and that resonates most with me is “I believe.”
It is a tough thing to think about: the words “I believe.” Do “I believe”? If so, what do I believe? I will be one of the first ones to admit that sometimes, and probably more often than not, I don’t know what I believe. Well, does that mean I shouldn’t say the word “amen”? Perhaps. But maybe not. Maybe it is possible to believe, even if we don’t know exactly what it is that we believe.
I have a lot of questions about the bible, about Jesus, and about God. Many of those questions could even be called serious doubts. But when I participate in ministries and communities such as Cathedral in the Night, my questions become less important and I am reminded why I believe. Cathedral in the Night is an “outdoor church” on the sidewalk of Northampton, MA. Because Cathedral is on the street, it has a unique way of being completely inclusive. There are no qualifications you must have (or think that you must have) to walk through the door, because there are no doors. So, when I come to Cathedral, my questions and doubts don’t disappear, but they no longer become the crux of “I believe”. I still can’t tell you what I believe. I cannot tell you whether I think God is male or female or neither. I cannot tell you who I think Jesus is. But I can tell you that I believe in what happens at Cathedral in the Night. I believe in the space of unconditional acceptance that is created at Cathedral, so that I can come to church at Cathedral even if I am an atheist one week and a Christian the next; whether I have $5 in my pocket or I don’t have pockets. I believe in Cathedral, because even though I don’t know who or what God is, I know, that God is there. Because I see God in every single person at Cathedral in the Night and I experience God as I talk with these people and get to know them. Even when I don’t know what I believe, the unconditional acceptance and community that is created at Cathedral in the Night is one of the reasons why I believe. It is why I say “Amen.”
1 Wikipedia contributors, "Amen," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Amen&oldid=530949850(accessed January 5, 2013).
2 Amen. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/amen?s=t(accessed: January 05, 2013).