Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
A visit to a church like this and you can quickly grasp the concept of 'churches in decline.' For all intents and purposes the place is pretty tired looking and seemingly not on a good trajectory:
- The building's interior looks like it is straight out of the 1950's - cinderblock walls, linoleum tile floors, and windows that are opaque, cracked, and definitely not energy efficient.
- 3 of us at the 8am service (why bother?) and about 26 at the 11am
- Many of the folks are older and there are not many signs of children being present
- There's a noticable lack of energy in the worship service, the liturgy was uneven and the sermon was a very 1970's psychobabble piece - ( don't think God was even mentioned)
- Both services started late - as did the Bible study between service
But even with all the potential barriers and pitfalls this church had an amazing edge to it unlike any Episcopal church I've ever been in: It was diverse: Racially, educationally, economically, and age-wise. The later service reflected about 50% Anglo; 45% African American; and 5% Asian. Almost every age demographic was represented - minus teens and 20's. There were a couple of Harvard grads and a couple of folks who had barely finished high school.
And beyond that: The people were genuinely friendly, warm and welcoming but not pushy or needy. The music surprisingly in a place this size was very good - a wonderful young woman who played piano, organ and led the choir. And they are located in a prime area for growth: densely populated area of Northern Virginia in the DC suburbs.
This is the kind of place that can really capture my imagination and stir my soul in a way that few churches do. When that happens I am forced to ask not "What do they think they're doing?" but "Do they wonder and have they noticed what God is doing here?"
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
When was the last time you had to find a good doctor? Have you ever moved to a new town and had to go through the torment of trying to find a physician you can trust? Or maybe, you've received an unexpected diagnosis that has forced you to seek out a specialist - someone whom you knew was specially trained and practiced at delivering the kind of care you needed. You want to know what their credentials are and you want good referrals.
If this is a familiar situation for you, then you night be able to relate to the people in that city who crowded around the door - trying to see just how powerful Jesus' healing could be - just how trustworthy he was. Because, in fact, there is not a single one of us who is not in need of some kind of restoration. There is not one of us who is already perfectly whole, perfectly healthy in mind, body, and spirit.
"Everyone is searching for you," his companions say to Jesus. And where they find him - more specifically what they find him at - is the signal to us all of the power that Jesus can bring into our lives. "And while it was still dark, he went out to a deserted place to pray." Jesus' complete union with God, and his ongoing communion with the Father, is the sign to us of the power that Jesus offered the people gathered around that door, and those who were in the neighboring towns and villages.
And that communion with God is the path that Jesus offers all of us today who still are seeking for restoration and for wholeness.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The deal was that they were passing this little basket around and as each person got it, they stood up and said what they were putting in it; either a referral slip for another member, or a thank you slip with resultant dollars earned for a referral they had received and followed up on. Sometimes, someone would reach in and take out the referral that was intended for them from someone else who had recently had their turn and put it in there.
I couldn't resist. I just couldn't.
As my table neighbor began to pass the basket around me to the next person I grabbed it and stood up.
"Your customs are strange," I said. "In my tradition, if we made everyone stand up and explain what they were putting in the basket, we'd clear out the church in a big hurry. On the other hand, maybe if we let people reach in and take what they needed as the basket came to them, the church might not be struggling with membership decline."
I got a lot of laughs. But, hey - I was being serious.