A love letter of sorts to a church.
We have seen it many times, when the kids move out on their own, go to college get a job and they learn their parents are getting a divorce. This happened to me recently and it was not my parents rather a church. I would like to express my love and respect to one of the parties in this public spat. I am not a very religious person however I find religion fascinating and I believe there is such a tremendous opportunity for great things. I also view it, in many obvious cases, one of the most mis-used drugs on the planet.
On a recent trip to Hawaii with my wife, we reflected on so many churches dotting these beautiful islands. It saddened us a bit, because it is basically colonization of land that belonged to others. Much the same, we did this all across our country,. Still one can argue, religion can have a respectful place in our society.
For a little context, Members of the United Methodist Church don’t agree on biblical teachings about homosexuality. More than that, they don’t agree on whether it’s necessary to agree about homosexuality in order to remain a unified denomination. That remains to be seen and I am highly skeptical. In my opinion this is not a trial separation. There is no reason to stay together for the kids.
We went to a United Methodist church for over ten years. I never really wanted to go to church but, as soon as we arrived, I felt completely at home. Our daughter grew up with the youth group. The youth group did tremendous things and went on simple weekend adventures. I feel a little better about our society in many ways because of the youth who emerged from this group. By all means the church is one factor in their lives. I also believe the village of the church that surrounded them had positive influences that they will carry forward into adulthood. I believe spiritual and cultural guidance toward the youth group was impactful and should not be ignored.
By all means, we were a small church and our contribution to society was small yet meaningful. We raised money for community centers in Southeast Portland, we helped build homes with Habitat for Humanity, and provided money and resources to food banks in Portland. Although these are relatively small in the whole scheme of things, what is important is the spirit in which they were done. The people of this church embraced people of color, people of diverse sexual orientation as well as religions around the world. That is what I want my place of worship to look like.
And it wasn’t all about religion. We had a group at the church whose mission was to do things we would not normally do. We would go to diverse events such as roller derby, monster truck rallies, horror movies and hole in wall comedy shows. It wasn’t earthshaking, however it was nice way to do something different and understand the joy others received from these activities. There were various walking groups and many people in the church would travel the world together. If somebody in the congregation was ill or injured, they had an instant support group. I am not getting into the thoughts and prayers debate here. What was important was that it was a community that simply liked each other.
I always thought the people of the church where the leaders. However, our minister was simply one of the most intriguing people I have met in this lifetime. He was a true champion of equal rights for all people. He still fights this fight every single day in the church and I know it is a difficult journey for him.
On one occasion, I was struggling with many of the injustices in the world and I asked to have dinner with him. Of course he agreed, so we had a beer and a meal in a small pub in Northeast Portland. I explained my struggles and told him I was having a hard time with the concept of Heaven, Hell and even God. I think I skipped over my quizzical views of arks filled with animals and rising from the dead miracles. We both understood metaphors.
He did say one thing that resonates in me to this day. He asked me if I ever heard a piece of music, or read a passage in a book that moved me to tears.
I told him that I have.
He said “That is God”