Sunday, June 12, 2016

Beautiful Church

This morning I led my final song as interim worship director at our current church. As I drove home, companionably chatting with my two-year-old , I felt an up-welling of joy and gratitude.

I have been in a LOT of churches in my life. I grew up in an amazing, non-denominational, small church family in NY where church lunches were full of lasagna, holy kisses and boisterous laughter. In college, I flitted around a bit- from a Presbyterian church to an Assemblies of God to an international church in London, finally landing on a semi-Pentecostal church in inner city Richmond where I was one of very few white people with a LOT to learn. That's where I was first trained to be a worship leader and when I really started to think about race in the church. From a country church in North Carolina to helping plant an urban church to a few more wonderful places in my early 30's, it's been an adventure.

And with all our moving around, I've had a lot of chances to be ON worship teams.

This was the first time I've really led one for more than a Sunday or two.

A number of people over the last few months asked me if this job was stressful with raising 3 boys, preparing for a move across the country and dealing with the special challenges of our middle one.

I never had to hesitate when I answered.

Friends, this job was life-giving. It was like a long sip of water after a brutal trek across a dry land. The chance to come together with other rational adults two times a week doing one of the things I love to do best? Well, it was magical for me. The laughter, the camaraderie, the moments we truly were able to worship together as we led (and those who lead worship KNOW what I mean)...well, it's making it even harder to leave, to say the least. The opportunity to work more closely with our pastors, to see their heart for our congregation and our city, the chance to see myself and those around me grow in our gifts and take risks together has truly helped me see again WHY the church is so good and so necessary even in all it's messed up beauty.

And as I sat in the pew this morning, having just participated in my youngest son's baptism with my church family, listening to my pastor preach about being at peace with one another, listening to his stories about the Rodney King trial, white privilege and racism, I realized again just how unique this place is. It's not the first time I've heard things like this from our pulpit. In fact, justice is woven into the gospel effortlessly around here all the time. It would be strange NOT to hear words about God's call for reconciliation and healing in our world. To be blunt, that is not true of most of the churches of which I've been a part.

I am really going to miss this place. Like all the ones that have come before, it has shaped me in new ways, challenged me in others and helped me to give of my gifts.

Have I been hurt by churches? Sure. Pretty badly. Have I been loved by churches? Yep, more than I deserved. Is it easy to be a part of one? Nope.

But here's the thing. There is no perfect church because there are no perfect people.  You can't put a bunch of broken people into community with each other and expect things to go beautifully. We are defensive. We are passive-aggressive or, some of us, just plain aggressive for no good reason. We avoid conflict. We seek it out unnecessarily. We thrive on and create drama. We keep to ourselves and don't let anyone really know us. We mess up all the time.

So, we hurt each other. It's just going to happen.

But after 33 years of doing this church thing (my mom started bringing me when I was 4 years old) I can honestly say this: church is good. NOT because it has all the answers. NOT because it is always a safe place. NOT because I can show up and consume things that might make me feel good for awhile. NOT because we sit around and sing Kum-Ba-Yah all the time while holding hands and throwing wildflowers around.

Church is good because it can be people, created in the image of God, struggling to figure out what that looks like together...learning what grace means, steeped in forgiveness of self and one another, rejoicing and mourning with one another, breaking bread together, pushing ourselves to be able to truly become the person God has made us to be.

That, my friends, is a beautiful mess.

So, as we say goodbye again, I pause to thank God for this current body of people, for one more Sunday to worship with them, for the relationships I know will continue and for the ways they have prepared us to take this next step of faith as a family.

Thank you to this family for letting us be our crazy family, for letting us be who we are, for being family when we have been far away from our other family for three years. I couldn't be more thankful.

1 comment:

  1. You will be sorely missed! Thank you for serving us so well Trust you will continue to pray for CPC as we will for you. Rich & Martha