church gym feature
Society & Culture, Practice & Voice

Unity and Diversity at Church and the Gym

Shall I Go to Church or to the Gym?

If you’re my daughter Sophia, the answer is the gym.

Sophia—who once upon a time was a baby I held in my arms—is now 30 years old, living her life in Chicago where she’s been for five years. A few years ago, she started seriously working out and became interested in boxing. Yes, boxing!

I bought her the big gym bag for Christmas and her dad bought her good, strong headgear. But it wasn’t until the last Labor Day weekend that I got to go to the gym with her … for a Saturday morning class … with about 20 other people … all younger than me.

Where only effort matters and professions are irrelevant.

Unity Diversity Gym 1Her gym isn’t like a franchise or a chain. It’s just a neighborhood place to lift, spar, and sometimes, even fight. Near one wall, a young man was slamming the largest of three sledgehammers down on an enormous fat tire. Near another wall, a young woman was hanging from a bar and miraculously lifting her legs up to her face. Daniel, our teacher for the boxing class, was the largest man I had ever shook hands with. I don’t even know how to describe him, except that afterwards I asked Sophia, “Is that how big the guys who play pro football are?” And she said, “Yes.”

Daniel started to give us instructions for class. We broke up into two groups for the first half, switching off exercises, and then we joined together as one—women and men, brown, black, and white, of every body size, shape, and shade.

In our t-shirts and sweats, our professions were irrelevant, only our effort mattered. By the time Daniel has us all working together, in a line, for the second half of class, we were universally tired and soaked with sweat.

Sweat Angels Unite

As we passed each other crawling like crabs across the floor, one woman told my daughter, “You make that look easy.” On the way back, crawling backwards now, it was my turn to cheer on the youngster behind me, “How do you go so fast?” I admired.  When we all stood up together, from our forearm planks, I found myself staring down at the black, rubber floor. There was the shape of the imprints of our forearms. Despite what it was made of—or maybe because it was so much a part of us—the shapes were beautiful.

My daughter noticed me staring, came over and said, “Of yeah, we call those sweat angels.”
“Perfect,” I thought.

When had I ever felt so united with such a diverse a group of people, except for in church at All Souls? Before leaving I said to Daniel, “I know you’re good to everyone, but thanks especially for being good to my baby.”

“She’s a good girl,” he said as he gave me the biggest, gentlest hug of my life.

Sweat angels indeed.

Join us at All Souls on every Sunday in October to explore the theme of Unity and Diversity with our members, ministers, and friends.

We’d love to have you with us in-person or online, together in community and covenant.
Live stream services are at 10:00 a.m. CST for our Traditional service or the 11:30 a.m. CST Contemporary service.
Listen to all our services, including The Point, our Humanist Hour (Sundays at 11:30 a.m. during the church year) on our weekly podcast, too.

Read more from Rev. Barbara Prose on our blog,

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