I have friends who are against the church in the traditional meet-at-a-certain-time-and-place reality that it can be. They see it as outdated and irrelevant and harmful.
And it totally can be.
But I’m not there I don’t think — even after much deconstruction. I see why they are, and sometimes I can be. But I was reminded again today why I’m not. And there’s one main reason why.
The church I’m a pastor at recently moved to a rougher neighborhood in our city. Across the street from our building is a care home for people with severe mental illness. We’ve had many of their residents pop in on Sunday mornings, but Ron is the most consistent.
I’m not totally sure what happened to him, but it appears he has a brain injury of some sort. He asks repetitive questions and for money and bibles every Sunday. I think he thinks the Bible is a series. He told me he finished the last one I gave him after a week and wants the next one. I contemplated telling him to write it...
Ron squats in a prayerful position at the back of the church and sometimes out front if it’s not too cold. He takes in all the comings and goings of people as they walk into and out of the building. And he does it with the warmest smile and a glow in his eyes that, when I reflect on Sunday afternoons, make me want to cry in deep appreciation and awe for the river of divinity that can flow out of a person, who just a couple months ago, would have been seen as a wayward stranger.
He’s probably in his 60’s and puts about 6 sugars and 5 creams in his coffee. He uses 4 different mugs every Sunday. He has a love of mountain dew so strong that it rivals the cravings of a 15 year old.
The vast majority of people showing up on Sunday mornings would never encounter Ron in any other circumstance. Except for the context of a church service — that although happens in a building — does it’s best to focus on open doors rather than its erected walls. And slowly but surely, I’ve watched Ron and other church goers meet and talk and hug and laugh and tear up side by side and converse and shake hands and pour coffee for one another. These interactions don’t make any sense within traditional social expectation. But it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, truly. And I believe it happens because, for just over an hour every week, there’s a room where this is the expectation. And slowly but surely, this expectation (hopefully) walls out the doors to the day to day.
All this to say - I believe in the church and it’s Sunday time at 10am at a building at 1804 w. Broadway. Because I believe in the power of people like Ron and people like Alan hugging one another. People from two completely different parts of the same town. Who otherwise may have never crossed paths. But do so in the similar pursuit of stepping beyond themselves.