A little while back I posted on my Facebook page this question, “What kind of church body, community, or congregation (call it what you want) would you want to belong to if you could create it…let your imaginations run…things I am interested in; worship, gathering, service, etc.?” The responses that were either posted for the facebook world to see or sent to me in private messages truly astounded me. The astonishment did not so much come from the fact that so many replied but more around the people who took time to do so. The range was from folks who went to church every week or more to an atheist struggling to make sense of it all. And yet, at the heart of the responses, was a genuine concern for love and service- treatment of others in the new community and outside of it. One could argue that what people desire most is a safe place where all can be loved for who they are, where they are, as they are, authentically. A place that is safe for people to have doubts and disagreements. A place that has no judgment of one’s lifestyle or way of living. Makes sense right?
Then why is this so foreign to so many? Why is it that the church on earth has continued to hurt so many- and while it is possible to live in a shell and think this is not true (many have told me I am foolish to think this) it is reality. Just this Sunday in our education time at Advent, we talked about the church and what it needs to be. We were careful, though, to define it not as something that meets the needs of everyone for that would be impossible, but to define it as something that is authentic and real, rooted around the promise of grace and mercy that is shown through love. Ground rules need to be set- all are loved- period. My experience with church has been good, so I cannot speak as one who has been hurt. But, many I know have and their stories now are mine. I lament the pain that the body of Christ has caused and set myself to work for change from within. To preach good news yes but also to preach a challenging word that forces the Church to let go of ego, to let go of thinking we have it all figured out, to reach out, to stretch out and to create a safe, sacred space that allows people to be people.
As one, called and ordained (we say that sometimes in our absolution of sins in our liturgy) I want to apologize to those of you who have been hurt by the body of Christ- the same body that I desperately love. We are not perfect. And I hope you will forgive us for hurting you. I also hope that you maybe can help us, speak up, speak out, talk to those that are safe in this world of church so we can be better together. Below is one of my favorite songs called “Don’t you Know” by May Erlewine and Seth Bernard. Part of the chorus at the end states, “don’t you know…we’ve all got a long way to go”. We do, all of us- the church, the non-church, all of us…I look forward to the journey with you.