I am entering my 3d year as pastor at Park Street Christian Church. A lot has happened to this small community in its history, yet it survives and holds on to itself. It is a beautiful thing, when you think about it. But with a great loss (some four years ago), its members have to work hard to step out of the shadows of hurts and sting into the sunlight of its bright purpose and future. I have watched the loving people of this place do this, but I have also seen how the walking wounded struggle with even a bit of slight. My husband always says to me, “people are always looking for a reason NOT to go to church these days.” But I kind of think it is more than that. Culturally we are terrified of surrendering even the slightest bit of control over our freedom of choice in any given moment. What if something better comes ’round the bend and I’ve committed to this event OR that place…FOMO (fear of missing out reigns). Put that in combination of fearing what people think about us, and our sensitivity to any sort of disagreement requiring something more of us than a simple cordiality leaves many with the temptation to walk away from or never even walk into a place, especially a place of so-called faith. No thank you, it’s easier to do things on my terms with whom I feel like, thank you very much.
I guess you can say that is okay, but when it comes to family and faith community – Christian family and faith community, Jesus requires a bit more of us. In Christine Pohl’s book, Living Into Community, she talks about what it requires to sustain the gathering of people of faith. One of my favorite quotes: Good communities and life-giving congregations emerge at the intersection of divine grace and steady human effort. I love that. Humans mess up, God forgives. God’s people are called to forgive, too. Work things out for the God’s sake! It is what I have seen in the legacy of PSCC, and it is what I hope folks who spend time with us will walk away from believing…and practicing wherever they end up.
So I am beginning a series of sermons based on Pohl’s book. I told the congregation last Sunday that this is either the best or the absolute worst time to do this. Summer is upon us. Our Sanctuary was filled to the brim on Easter Sunday and each Sunday comes signs of summer decline. It makes pastors worry, even tho’ they know it happens every summer, but with culture continuing to define priorities of even the most faithful, I think we all wonder if there will be day when the books inspiring us to gather will be renamed: When We Used to Live Into Community, the practices that no longer sustain us. But until then, as one who believes that people, deep down, want to believe IN people…I will preach it and teach it, be there 2 or 200 with ears to hear. It’s a practice that sustains me, and may be, even you.