Column for February, 2018
A few weeks ago, I received a note from someone I knew when he was a teenager growing up in another state. He said that, although he grew up going to church, he has had a “rather strained history” with Christian faith and the church, and he doesn’t feel comfortable in churches. However, he said, someone close to him recently asked him a particular question that got him thinking: was there ever a church in which he did feel comfortable? The memories of his childhood church flooded back. He said that it was a “simple, warm, and inviting space” where he encountered people who “embody a Christianity based on joy, love, and gratitude.”
That got me thinking. It got me thinking about how we live together here at White Bluff Presbyterian; although none of us gets it perfect all the time, generally I think we all try our best to embody our Christian faith by showing joy, love, and gratitude, especially when we are here at the church. It got me thinking about the many people, young and old, who have come through here and moved on, but who, I pray, have experienced this as a simple, warm, and inviting place. It got me thinking about the fact that many people, especially young people, do not trust the church, and what we can do about that in our little corner of God’s emerging kingdom.
I shared the story with the Session and Deacons at the joint meeting of the two boards in January. A couple of them wanted to make sure that we all agree that we generally do pretty well at showing joy, love, and gratitude, and at making this a simple, warm, and inviting space. I do, and so did the folks at the meeting. I assured them that I was not putting my friend’s reminiscence out there as a critique, but more as a vision. Yes, we do those things, but how can we aspire to do better? How can we keep these words in front of us all the time, especially when we are here at the church, as a focus for everything we do, everything we say, and everything we are as White Bluff Presbyterian Church? How can we make sure that every person who comes through this place see the things that my friend saw in the church where he grew up?
Simple…warm…inviting…joy…love…gratitude: one of the Elders suggested maybe we should paint those words on the wall somewhere. I doubt we will do that (although if someone is especially good with stencils…), but I do wonder how those words could focus our life together. What would help you let those words guide you, especially when you are here at the church? What words would you add to my friend’s words to describe what we do well here and to remind us of what we aspire to be as followers of Jesus? How can we help others to know that, whatever strains they feel in their relationship to Christian faith and the church, we want to make a space here for them, and we will do our best to make their experience here look like that?
I pray we can all find ways to keep this vision before us! Thanks be to God for this community of faith!