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On a Mission from God

December 26, 2010

I’ve edited this post because it keeps popping up in search engines for unrelated things.


It started a few weeks ago. I made a joke that involved a reference to The Blues Brothers and Erica, our awesome housemate, gave me a blank stare.

“You’ve never seen The Blues Brothers?

Blank stare.

“How on earth can you have never seen The Blues Brothers?”

Silence. Then, “You know I don’t much like religious stuff.”

I tracked down a DVD and gave it to her for Christmas, and last night, we all curled up in front of the TV to watch it, including our initially reluctant children.

“Oh come on,” I coaxed them. “It has car chases and explosions.” It wasn’t long before they were hooked.

“Is that a real church? Church can be like that? How come our church isn’t like that? Why can’t we go to a church like that?” said my children. I didn’t think it would be a good time to talk about how, and why, 11:00 on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. I just told them that every church is different, and as long as there is love, and people love God and Jesus, it’s all good, and for goodness sakes to please stop talking and just watch the movie.

This morning, I woke them up. “We’re going to a different church, and we have to leave in fifteen minutes.”

This requires explanation. As I have mentioned on this blog, we are Episcopalians, and it takes something like wild horses, or an ugly international schism, to drag me to a church of a different ilk. Lately, we’ve been visiting the local Presbyterian church, which is similar enough to what we’re used to, plus it is within walking distance of our house, and is 100% free of schism. But not this morning.

This morning we went to a different church, where a friend of mine was preaching.

I enjoyed seeing my friend preach, but what intrigued me the most about the church we visited was that it is truly diverse. A large proportion of the congregation arrives at church at the same time because they ride a van up from the homeless shelters in downtown Dallas, and a lot of the congregation not from homeless shelters is West African.

In (designer) jeans, a (cashmere) sweater, and a (cashmere) shawl I felt both underdressed and overdressed, but then I stopped caring.

We arrived to coffee, good coffee, and good donuts, which were offered to us by people who, I suspect, were homeless. We’d barely woken up in time to get dressed, and none of us, especially not my children, had eaten.

Homeless people fed us breakfast, and we were grateful for it.

Then the band started up. A rock band is not usually a style of worship I find personally compelling, but it was clear that a great many of the congregation did find it compelling, because they raised their arms in praise, and danced, and for once my children behaved in church.

The sermon was on Christmas, on the nativity, and the final point of his sermon was that Christ had come to bring good news to all people, not just people who believed in him.  Not just to the aristocracy, the ruling class, the rich merchants, but to the shepherds, the yard men, the office cleaners. The survivors of genocide hiding as civil unrest. The homeless.

People who know what it means to say, “Life is hard.” People whose problems are much more intractable than a slight case of not-quite-terminal cancer in someone who has the will, knowledge, and means to seek out the best medical care available.

During the service, the pastor asked for us to hold in prayer a member of the church whose daughter-in-law had died that weekend, of a drug overdose, at 29, who left four young children whose father is doing time. Ouch. The church laid hands on another man who is suffering from “a variety of health problems.” I know what a dying person looks like, because I’ve seen it in the mirror, and I also know what it looks like to lay hands on that person and cry out for God’s healing mercies, because it’s been done to me, most memorably by a furniture delivery man who rang the doorbell, again, after having delivered some furniture for my daughter’s room, and humbly asked my permission to pray for me, and then did so. Cancer is an obvious need for a miracle, but some needs are greater, and more subtle.

Are we going to start attending this “different kind of church?” I don’t know. I’d like to start attending our home church again, but fear that someone might say something schismatic, or allude to it, robs me of my motivation to get out of bed on Sunday morning.  We might start going to the lovely church that has the added feature of being walking distance from our house.

We’ll probably visit again, to see what the church is like on a Sunday when the regular pastor preaches. I’d like to bring Erica. I know she doesn’t like religious stuff, but she might find this one intriguing. It’s a good church, and I’m glad to know it is there.

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