Yesterday (Sunday) we held a goodbye party for one of our co-labor-ers here in the neighborhood, and so we used the Eagle's Nest (fellowship hall) at our church for a simple meal of pizza and soda and generic cookies. The party opened with a DVD of kids and moms and grandmas from all over Glenwood saying their video-goodbyes, complete with a blooper reel at the end, and concluded with people in the room saying their goodbyes "live." A group of women from a recovery home (all of whom were baptized together just a few weeks ago) sang a beautiful song about hope in the midst of feeling in chains. And we prayed for our friend to have a safe and transformational time away.
In the room were single moms and singles without kids. Young married couples with babies, and older marrieds whose kids were in college. There were poor and moderately wealthy, black and white, struggling and established, many walking with Jesus and some teetering on the brink of falling away. I watched Eliza and Psalter playing with some of the kids who come to tutoring and felt the ease with which everyone in the room interacted and loved each other, not dwelling on racial and class lines. The community love there was genuine, not a forced attempt at reconciliation or a sense of the haves giving to the have nots. And I couldn't help but think, "Now this is church."
That is not to say that my worship experience earlier that day was invalid or not spiritual. I was fed from God's Word, I worshipped with Brothers and Sisters in Christ. But as I continue to read Scripture with the lens of reconciliation and transformative justice in place, I can't help but believe that church is should be more than homogeneous, more than based on worship preference, more than good sermons. It should be a place where the boundaries of our culture and prejudices are overcome by love and good deeds, by a commitment to relationship for the long hall, and by a commitment to gathering people of varying background, cultures, and financial means.
And that gathering of a diverse people should be a more concentrated gathering than what I typically experience. There certainly are people of several races and cultures who worship regularly at my church. There certainly are people of varying economic levels in service on Sunday. But they are scattered, not concentrated, and are therefore often overlooked and unheard, and their transformative presence is not felt by the Body at large.
I am both sad and thankful for the gift of our time yesterday. Thankful because it was sweet to my spirit and gave me a hopeful picture of a beautiful church. But sad because most of our friends from Glenwood who were at this party do not attend our church on Sundays, and I wonder how long it will be until yesterday's snapshot becomes a living reality.