Saturday, January 10, 2009

Real church

I was part of the gang that hosted a turkey dinner today for about 250+ members of our community. Not just those in need of a good meal, but everyday, normal people. It was particularly timed to be a New Years celebration, something different than the typical community turkey dinners that abound before Christmas, coming after the post-Christmas blahs have set in.
Just for a bit of background: 4 years ago our community heard about something that had started in another BC city called Love Your City. The basic premise is to get Christians out of the church, and into the community, doing good things, giving away stuff, no strings attached. Free car washes, hot dogs, or bottled water. Doing yard work. Hosting a kids party in the park. Fun stuff! And here's the better part—it's a group of about 6 or so churches of all stripes, the mix of what is in our community. It's Christians working together, playing together, being a loving, generous, presence of the God we serve. Did you catch the together part? It's not my church vs. your church, but The church.
We've done 4 summer events, and this was our 3rd New Years celebration dinner. The pastors and congregations are really getting used to doing things together.
So, here we were. People roasting turkeys and bringing them ready to serve. Mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, veggies, all the fun stuff! Face painting, coloring contests, play dough, beads, and whatever else for the kids—and prizes and gifts for all. Table hosts making sure our guests were treated well. The churches had spent the last few months collecting the ingredients of a nice food hamper for almost every family, complete with reuseable grocery bag. There were special door prizes. And there was music. That's where I came in. No, I didn't sing, but got to set up and operate the sound equipment for the guitar/violin duo (anything from a couple jigs to some more romantic stuff), and a jazz vocal/guitar duo. She has a voice like velvet, like warm chocolate pudding (if you love chocolate pudding like I do!). We tried to make it fun, special, and community-based. Most of the churches involved are doing something for a follow-up—a marriage enrichment series, a discussion series on Is God Real?, a video series on understanding Christianity. But there was no pressure to sign up, just a friendly offer of ways we can bless you.
So, we had about 250 or more guests from the community, and probably close to 100 volunteers—setting up, hospitality, serving, cleaning, etc. And it was a blast! Hours and hours of planning had gone into it, with the benefit of a couple years experience and wisdom. Everyone worked harder than they should have, and yet I'll bet that most of us aren't so much tired as incredibly blessed.
And here's where it hits me: Today was church. Real church. Out where we are supposed to be. Doing the kind of things we can all do. Forgetting about the theologies that might divide us. Not trying to be high pressure salesmen.
And tomorrow is Sunday. When I have to go to church. Which won't be as real as today was. Oh, it's a fine group of people, and all that, but it's more artificial. We put on our Sunday best, polish up our smiles and do all the churchy stuff. But it doesn't really do a thing for the community. Not like today did. The thing that is going to bring the people in our community closer to a relationship with the God who really loves them is going to be a turkey dinner more than it is going to be a finely crafted worship service or sermon.
But I guess I'll go to church anyway!


Peter said...

Al, I'm glad you're brave enough to say Sunday morning church can be a little "artificial." And how!

Sounds like a really cool event yesterday! I wish I had/made more time for things like that.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a pastor a few years ago. I suggested, "What if we joined with the local Jewish and Muslim groups for a community-wide, interfaith dinner and clothes drive?"

He said, "Oh, I don't think that's a good idea. We could join with other churches, but involving other religions compromises our message."

Really? Kindness can compromise kindness? Love compromises love?

There are some acts, universal in nature and in language. Your community celebration dinner sounds like one such event.

Ed said...

Thats really excellent Al... i certainly enjoyed Maureen Washington as she certainly sings smooth as pudding.


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