“It’s not the fall itself as much as the flailing I do as I fall that does so much damage.”
I first read that quote (or something like it) decades ago, back when falling didn’t seem like something to worry about. Now that I am over 65, I understand how dangerous a fall can be. Broken wrists broken knees and broken hips are real and serious issues.
Nevertheless, when we were considering a way to move into our fall worship series, “Brave,“ and Amy suggested we begin with a trust fall, I was intrigued. I have always considered my faith journey as an adventure I have pretty much fallen into. From the moment I began to listen for God’s call in my life, and up to this moment of writing, I have known the journey would require courage on my part. I am one of the folks who resonate with the suggestion of Annie Dillard that church pews should be equipped with seat belts and crash helmets.
So what about a trust fall? As we let the idea settle in, we decided, “Why not?“ Why not experiment with this embodiment as we explore what it means to be “brave”?
A quick note in case you’re wondering. A “trust fall” is an exercise where we one person falls backwards into the arms of another person (or persons) ready to catch the faller. A trust fall is designed to remind us of how much we need one another, especially when we take a risk and fall. And of course, as human beings, we all will fall sooner or later. It is a way of exploring relationships by taking a little bit of risk.
So there I was, on the first Sunday of our new fall worship series, standing on the podium that is usually reserved for our music director, Heidi. My two colleagues stood behind me, with their arms locked, ready to catch me. And behind them was another congregant, who I had asked to keep an eye on my head “just in case.”
We had practiced the trust fall earlier that morning. I was surprised at how daunting it actually was, to cross my arms, stiffen my body, and fall backwards, trusting the prepared arms to catch me. The experience was unsettling enough that when I went downstairs to talk with the youth about the song they would be leading in the service, titled “Brave,” as it turned out, I had told them about the trust fall. Youth are often experienced with this exercise. Trust falls are a frequent part of youth programming.
So I told the youth group what I would be doing, and asked them to send me their silent encouragement as I did it.
Then I went into the sanctuary for the beginning of worship.
So there I was, preparing to fall into the arms of my colleagues. Amy spoke the words: “We catch our breath. Our heartbeat quickens. We fall into the brave place of worship and service.“
I’m not sure what the congregation expected in that moment. As I nervously looked over my shoulder to make sure my colleagues were ready for me, many people laughed. Was it nervous laughter?
I crossed my arms, stiffened my legs, and fell back.
And then I felt strong arms catch me.
The congregation surprised us all by breaking into applause. Maybe we all had been catching our breath. Maybe every heartbeat quickened. Or maybe for most it was just another Sunday. That sure can be how it is for me sometimes.
But on that Sunday, in that moment, in all my anxiety and my wonder, I was encouraged. I was supported. I was celebrated. I was caught.
It is just a small moment, a way to move into a sense of the Sacred. But it points to something much bigger. So as we go through this “trust fall” season, I wish that for every person of faith who steps into a risky place, who summons courage, who falls into the brave place of worship and action, that they will indeed fall into the welcoming and strong arms of God.