Experiences to remember

 Funny and sadly disjointed experiences from Broad Street so far:

1) (said by a regular attendee at Sunday dinners to two 13-year-old girls visiting with their youth group):

“So tell me, why is it that you two girls are in here eating with us instead of ‘walking the avenue’ on South Street? What I mean is, why are you in here instead of prostituting yourselves out there?”

2) the night at the dark horse, a bible study for some of the 20-30s members of BSM, an elderly couple walks up to our table and whispers “You know, we are Christians too…..” and then proceeds to congratulate us on how well-behaved we are (HA!) and tell us about how their church faithfully left the episcopal church, found a “safe haven” under the Bishop of Uganda, and has refused communion to the Bishop of PHilly not once but TWICE.

3) the night that the florida youth group sang songs about being “free to love Jesus” and “free to live” to a room full of homeless people who are, to a great extent, enslaved by the injust systems of our society that make it impossible for them to get jobs, benefits, housing, etc.

4) Getting asked if I wanted to “make puppies” with Kevin at breaking bread.

5) Bill’s victory dance when I told him Alex was my “money ticket” and the look on his face as he impersonated me saying “what are we doing today now that we have a job, honey?”

 

 

 

more to follow.

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Weird Day.

Talk about a disjointed day…. I got home today from work in the city and read on the GA website that the GA voted 380-325-3 in favor of deleting G-6.0106b from our Book of Order (psst…. for those of you who aren’t presbyterian, thats the part that means that if you are gay and not celibate you can’t possibly be called as a minister of Word and Sacrament).  

Hours earlier, my fellow colleagues at Broad Street Ministry and I went to check out a facility in Philly that provides meals 5 days a week to the local, in this particular location’s case, male, homeless population. We want to send kids there, so we were familiarizing ourself with the program.  The director was showing us around the place, giving us a tour of the building and the block, and had this to say about his neighborhood:

“That hotel down the street, I hear that on the weekends that it is some sort of transvestite party.  The very idea of it makes my stomach churn.”  He also mentioned that the shelter required youth to bring adult chaperones, because, in his words “some of the people who come here might be dangerous.  Sometimes we have trannies.”

I wanted to ask him if he thought the trannies would eat our children, but I refrained.  The experience does point to a larger issue, though…. Christ tells us not to judge lest we be judged, and while I am certain that this man’s words were a judgement call regarding a population he possibly fears or doesn’t understand, my own uncomfortableness with him pointed to my own inner judgement of his own thoughts.  On top of that, despite his personal views, the program offered something that is pretty necessary.  Sure there are flaws, but the fact remains that this place feeds an average of 300-400 men lunch every day, with relatively few strings attached.  I am caught wondering how I ought to process my emotions about all of it. On top of that, I have to tell myself not to get my hopes up about this GA nonsense, because who knows what might happen in the Presbyteries.

 

further thoughts…

Questions that have been on my mind:

 

  • what is the purpose of church?  is it the same or different from the purpose of Christ?  
  • what does it mean, I mean, REALLY MEAN, to serve?
  • what is, really, salvation?  Is it possible to, as many churches would have you believe and do, save other people?  This prospect makes me uncomfortable, as I tend to think that is God’s job alone, but what is our role as fellow human beings?  What shape does salvation take in a life?  Is it feeling loved and wanted by others and by God?
  • How does one truly love one’s neighbor?
So yes, I know these are all big questions, but they have been on my mind, especially given my experience on Sunday with that church… the experience was so wrapped up in the needs and experience of the community that had already been welcomed (the insiders, if you will), which seemed so out of step with Christ that it made me wonder what the point of church is at all… because if it ain’t Christ, then what is it? Furthermore, who am I to judge where Christ is?  What if I am wrong?  Do I want to be a part of something that closes itself off and isolates itself from the real world?  Is that the kind of love that I would want to receive?  
So if you have any ideas or ruminations, I would love to hear them… these are big questions, and it is my suspicion, as with many things, that big questions are best wrangled with in community rather than alone, for it is in community that we face one another and open one another to our own experiences and form a more complete picture of how God might be working in our contexts.

What is Communion for?

So this summer has been cruising along at a hellish blast out here in philly at BSM.  I have found myself quite comfortable in this funky church.  The people who work here all care deeply about what it means to live and be a church in Philly, and it definitely shows–in the friendliness of those who come here, in the posture of openness of not only the staff but also many who come here for meals and worship and fellowship.  And it has been quite a bit of work as well, but I have liked it.

One thing that has also been nice about BSM has been that worship is in the evenings, which means that I have had the opportunity to both work at a church and explore other church communities in the area.  So far I have attended 4 other Presbyterian Churches in the area, and while I haven’t felt quite at home at any of them, my experiences at each have left me mulling over some interesting questions about what it means to steward a church and to be a church in a city like this.

One that has come up most sharply relates to an experience that I had at a church this past week.  The church was a sort of wacky mix of traditional and contemporary, with a praise band and an organ, and a whole lot of “Lord Father God” language.  Their pastor, a supply pastor, was extremely exuberant and unabashedly Reformed, which meant there was a whole lot of things like “we come here not to receive, but to give gratitude and worship god” being said, and a whole lot about depravity and sinfulness as related to our inability to see and worship God being implied.

I didn’t mind all that so much.  In fact, I was sort of interested in the church because other than BSM they are the only PCUSA-ish church I know of  that has communion every week.  I happen to think frequent communion is a beautiful thing, so I was excited.  So we get to communion, and the pastor gets up and does the invitation, which goes something like this: “we welcom to the table all those gathered here among us today who have been baptized into the faith.  If you have been baptized, please come forward now to receive communion.”

Did I hear that right?  Did he just say that communion is only for you if you have had water sprinkled on you by a minister?  Did he MEAN it?  They aren’t going to police that, are they?  I was caught between surprise and anger by what I had heard.  I mean, what is communion for?  Everything this church said indicated it believed that communion was a feast for believers to pat themselves on the back and celebrate their gratitude to God… but what about everyone else?  Jesus’ memorable meal was one shared with the “everyone else,” the prideful, broken, sinful, young, unprepared clan of young men and probably some women who had  been rejected by everyone but Christ, who unlike anyone else gathered them in and welcomed them to a table where they were filled and provided for.  It was radically inclusive, as I read it, nothing like the closed table of this church.  In contrast to Jesus’ meal, this church seemed guaranteed to leave anyone who took communion illicitly feeling deceitful and probably guilty for nothing more than seeking to be fed by Christ.

So those are my thoughts, but seriously, what is communion for?  Is it right to close a table?  What does it mean for a community to choose to close a table to outsiders?  Is it necessary that it always be open?  I imagine anyone reading this knows my thoughts, but I wonder what others might think?  What would it mean to offer communion to anyone who comes to the table?  What is at stake?  What is the risk?  What might be gained from a completely open table?

GA 2008

Just a Note:  Watching most of the moderator candidates tonight was not only boring as hell, but completely disheartening.  Yes, I know these people care about the church, and yes I know they care about God, but I certainly wish I heard a bit more about Jesus and a bit more about service and care and love and a bit less about financial security and vague BS.  I might be wrong, but I just heard way too much of that crap.*

 

 

*this does not, of course, apply to the wonderful BRC.  GO Bruce!  I just wish there was more passion across the board!

long stretch

kiddies are here for the summer, so I don’t quite have time to post much… I really want to keep track of my thoughts for this experience but I am so tired by the time I have time…

 

Just a recap for the day:

–Overbrook PC is here, and they are great, good kids.

–went to New Jerusalem today, visited the Anti-Violence Program they sponsor run by the Quakers and Mennonites… Met Regina and Ray and some other awesome folks.  It was a great experience.

–evening worship went pretty well tonight… again, the naming the circle ritual rocked the socks off another group… that thing is seriously fail-safe.

–I… am… sleepy.