I’m looking for a church: A place where “religion” is more than rote and ritual. Where prayer is spontaneous and heartfelt, rather than recited from a prescribed book—whatever the edition. Where spiritual fruit, not religious nuts, is cultivated. And where the God whom I pray to is acknowledged as personifying all people … not just a blessed, biased, and/or bigoted old man somewhere in the sky.
I’m seeking a house of worship that’s truly welcoming, inclusive, and affirming—a church focused more on God’s love, compassion and forgiveness than the wages of sin and a whole bunch of “thou shalt nots.” I need a place where resurrection is the focus, not crucifixion.
I guess it comes down to this: I’m looking for a spiritual community that’s doing church differently. One based on beliefs which don’t necessarily resonate with other churches that I know: a mustard seed growing in a place where a Christian’s old wine skins may no longer be fitting.
Unfortunately, there’s no church in the ‘hood where I live that echoes my list of imperatives and beliefs:
Faith is not about concrete answers, religious absolutes, creeds, or dogma. Faith is about the search for understanding, the raising of important questions, the open honesty of having doubt, and the realization that no one has it all completely right, nor does any human hold all the answers. Religious absolutes of dogma, legalism, and strict doctrine can become stumbling blocks and litmus tests for who is “in” and who is “out” of the circle of God’s grace. They’re tests Jesus never required that get in the way of truly believing and following the Lord’s teachings.
Following Jesus is counter-cultural, radical, and disrupts the status-quo. The good news of the Gospel is intentional in its inclusion of those who are traditionally marginalized, refused or rejected by Mainline Christianity. I believe that each of us has been created in the image of God and, therefore, we are called to welcome, accept, and affirm each other. Denominations, churches, and individuals who judge others and find them unacceptable, deficient in their own prescribed rule book, don’t speak for God or the Church envisioned by Jesus Christ.
The words of Jesus found in the Gospels – specifically, what he states are the greatest commandments: “Love God with all of your essence and love your neighbor as you should love yourself” – are to be the focus for all of his followers. Other than that, Scripture can be considered mostly sacred commentary that reflects the history of a particular people, the Israelites, in the Old Testament … and an emerging community of Christians in the New Covenant.
Creating fellowships and communities dedicated to lifting up, affirming, and equipping one another for God’s work calls us to stress being active in peace-making, striving for justice and equality of all people and nations (Micah 6:8), loving those who are labeled by our government, society, and – at times – ourselves, as “enemies,” caring for God’s creation, and bringing hope to the poor and poverty-stricken, the hungry and the hostages.
God created humans with a brain capable of discovery and reason. God does not require us to “check our brains at the door,” along with our coats and hats in order to be a part of the faith. Faith and Science are not in conflict; they can work together in harmony.
The Church is not a four-walled institution, but a ministry without walls that surrounds and encompasses everything, everywhere.
Jesus’s central message is about radical inclusion: everyone should be welcomed to participate in the congregation without judgment or forcing them to conform to our “likeness” or subscribe to any creeds in order to be accepted. We are to invite and offer all a place at the table – no exceptions.
Until there’s a church here in my ‘hood that practices and preaches these beliefs, please join me here — online — with our virtual congregation and church.