Being the Stranger at My Own Party

This past week I attended one of SFC’s gateway events, Spiritually Thirsty.  We started way back in our first year having drinks and discussion at a local bar once a month.  As our community evolved one of our leaders took over the event, renamed it, and started advertising on meetup.com.  I attend when I can, partially to support the leader and partially because it is wonderful to discuss everything from substance abuse to the nature of God with a diverse array of people.  This past spring my attendance has been hit and miss.  During that time the group has grown and there is now a core group of regulars who attend the twice monthly gatherings. Last week as I arrived late I walked up to a table covered with my tablecloth, surrounded by strangers.  Sure I had met some of the folks and knew the leaders, but the majority of people were new to me.  They all had met together several times on nights when I hadn’t attended.  I was the newbie and it was wonderful.  The discussion was enlightening, challenging, funny, and interesting.  I was made to feel welcome by the other folks, an amazing experience of hospitality and humility. Afterwards I reflected on my experience with the leader, and he told me that sometimes he sits at the table before anyone else comes, alone in a bar with a tablecloth and wonders how he got here.  He has found his ministry, but it’s something he never would have begun without the support and challenge of his commitment to SFC.  This is discipleship at work and it is...

Sharing the Beauty of Nature

One of the great things about the ministry we are doing is they way it spins off in new ways.  This spring one of our core group started a new program called meditation hikes.  The idea was to help people tap into the deep spiritually connectedness that many folks feel in nature.  We have had up to 19 people join us as we lay in the grass and silently center ourselves, read poems and scripture as we look and smell and hear and touch the world around us.  The hikes have had huge positive responses and our meetup.com page where we advertise them is full of positive remarks.   Not only has this been a successful program for us at SFC, but it’s already being used by Jeff with his ministry where he runs service learning trips for youth groups.  He’s had 6 trips so far this summer and on a bunch of the evaluations the meditation hike has been a highlight.  Serving those in need, learning about the world, and engaging in faith practices make these trips memorable for the youth and adults who participate.  It’s lovely when an idea that starts in one place cross pollinates to another.  Maybe some of those groups will start their own meditation hikes back home. One of my colleagues read about the idea in an earlier blog.  She asked for an outline of what we do so I sent her the information I’m including below.  Hopefully she can adapt what we do for her community and continue to serve people spiritually with this program.   I love how ideas blossom and...

Working on Welcoming

At Sellwood Faith Community we are a people who try to embody a sense of welcome.  We don’t require a belief in God to engage in service or come have a conversation over dinner.  We’ve welcomed atheists, Buddhists, humanists, and others into our midst and been the richer for those interactions.  Throughout our time of existence however we have struggled with being welcoming to the people who at least on paper are the most like the leadership of this community, conservative christians.  Our leaders and other Christians share a belief in God and Christ, so why does it feel like there is a bigger gulf with our brothers and sisters in the church than with those outside of it? Some of the folks in our community have fled churches where they have been hurt by doctrines of exclusion and otherness.  Others have gotten bogged down in endless circular debates about the bible which only serve to sap spiritual energy rather than being spaces where actual listening takes place.  While we may have our reasons to approach these interactions with caution if we truly believe that God is bigger than we are it is imperative that we actually do work to welcome anyone and everyone. To do this means first being aware of who are the people that we avoid or would have a difficult time welcoming.  It takes reflection to figure out why our reaction is one of less than open hospitality and then a community discussion of what is the way forward.  This does not mean we simply become doormats.  It means we long to fully embody who...

Help in the Heat

Last night as we were preparing for dinner I was stuck.  I wasn’t sure whether we should have dinner inside or outside.  Our house was a balmy 87 degrees, even with the portable air conditioner blowing out cold air for several hours.  Outside the bulk of the grass was in the sun, rendering the folding chairs hot to the touch and making things just to0 toasty to enjoy dinner.  As our music team arrived I was still fussing with what to do.  I asked them to help me put up the canopy and was trying to arrange it precariously between the garden beds and the clothesline when Allison said, “Why don’t we set up in the driveway?”  I would never have thought of that.  I was so focused on my two options, inside or back yard, that stepping back and considering a third way was not possible for me.  The driveway is shaded, perfectly situated to catch the breeze, and level which means no one is tilted in their chair like on our uneven grass.  The added bonus is that all the people walking and driving by can see us gathered together.  It’s visual evangelism.  This is our third summer of doing dinners and never once before had meeting on the driveway occurred to me.  It took someone else who wan’t wrapped up in how things are to offer the perfect alternative. Having new voices in any community is so important. Creating a culture where another can offer leadership and vision is the best way to continue to grow and thrive.  I’m glad that this community is a place...