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It is ridiculous how much I’ve changed over the past year.

What’s changed?  I’ve learned that “the God I don’t believe in” is the third grade image of God (see the post from earlier this week) and that perhaps there is room to believe in a different kind of God.

I’ve learned that leading a religious service is more than standing in front of a group of people and singing.  Which I thought was enough, but then I learned that leading a service is also more than helping them have a spiritual experience.

(And frankly, I don’t think that’s fair.  Isn’t providing opportunities for spiritual experiences enough?  Apparently not.  I’m still learning the rest of that lesson.  I’ll keep you posted.)

Back to the learning.  I’ve learned that engaging my body in prayer — beyond the standard synagogue choreography — can be spiritually uplifting for me and the congregation.  (But I still think some of the body movement stuff is just silly.)

I’m learning that despite learning so much, I have a long way to go.  A really long way.  How can I fully inhabit my prayer?  How can I engage with liturgy that has language that challenges me, or worse, upsets me?

Which leads me, oddly, to the young people who lead campus tours for prospective students and their parents.

Ever seen it?  They walk backwards.  So I asked myself — How do they know where they’re going?  How can they paint a word picture of what’s behind them, turning the landscape into more than just building facades and green lawns?  How can you go deeper and still go backwards?

The secret is knowing the terrain intimately.  They need to traverse it over and over, from every angle, sometimes sitting in one spot for a long time, exploring it thoroughly before they can bring it to life for someone else.

So too for a prayer leader.  You’ve got to know the liturgy inside-out if you want to help other people experience the service fully.  That’s my goal.