December 17, 2009

i need your help


My family's first Sunday visiting First Pres (where I will be working starting next month), was also Matthew Lickona's first visit. Matt writes the Sheep and Goats column in the Reader. I first met Matt when he visited the Hawthorn House awhile ago.

Go check out Matt's column on First Pres here.

Matt pointed out a few things that I also noticed at First Pres and wanted to mention here. Let me say, though, that I haven't even had my first day on the job yet so what follows is only my speculation.

First, Matt subtly points out the vast difference between those that are a part of the weekly life at First Pres. Rev. Andrews spoke with Lickona about the church's work with low-income and homeless people, but you can tell from the attire of those on Sunday morning–and the magnitude of the presentation presented at the Feast of Lights–that this is a congregation of the affluent as well. Moving towards unity under such stark economic diversity is both beautiful yet challenging. The challenge being that both segments of the congregation need each other. But not always in the way our greater culture recognizes. I've written about this kind of challenge before when reflecting on 1 Kings 17:8-16.

Lickona, noticed that one of the beautiful stained glass pieces in the sanctuary is of Jesus meeting the "rich young ruler." Ironic? Maybe. But also a symbol of how willing this congregation is to hold in tension the polar opposites of their own reality. My hope is that First Pres will be willing to give all that Jesus asks. I don't think we will walk away disappointed.

The Story
In his article, Lickona also noted that in Jerry's third Advent Sunday sermon he spoke of Mary but also Rachel and Ruth; two other biblical women who traveled to Bethlehem. Just as Mary's story was connected to these two characters she would have known about as a Jewish girl, we too are not solitary in our experience. Our own stories are connected to these other stories throughout time. I really appreciated how Jerry tied the grand story arching from the Old Testament to the New Testament together. His closing statement sums it up, "This is your Story. Live it."

Invitation (this is where I need your help)
Lastly, I was glad that Lickona published Jerry's comments about inviting people to church:

“Bring your neighbor,” urged Andrews during the announcements. “These people wonder why church is important to you...why you’ve invested your lives in these things, why these things sustain you in life. You haven’t talked to them about it, and that confuses them.”

Christians often miss the point on reaching out to those outside of the church. They wonder if they need to exchange pews for folding chairs, liturgy for pop music, etc. But I don't think it is those symbols that connect us to an ancient faith that are keeping people away from churches. Rather, as Lyons and Kinnamon point out in their book, Unchristian, it is in great part the character (or lack thereof) of Christians that they often find disconcerting.

From my experience, people are genuinely curious even if they are creeped out by the baggage that seems to come along with Christianity.

So, before I get on any further tangent, here's the real reason why I'm posting this: I sincerely want to know what you think of First Presbyterian Church of San Diego. So, I am inviting each and every one of you reading this to visit, and most importantly tell us what you think. Everything from aesthetics, to hospitality, to the donuts, to the preaching, music, feeding of homeless and low-income folks... whatever. I want to know what you think. I can't say it strongly enough.

Yes, I am asking you to let me know how to approach my new job... better. Consider it a personal favor.

There are a few ways to do this:

a) Leave a comment here and tell me what you thought after visiting.

b) Send me an email at jasonevans [at] gmail [dot] com. If you do this, I forewarn you that I may ask if I can take you out for a cup coffee (on me) to pick your brain.

and for those that would prefer to remain nameless...

c) Feel free to use Yelp or ChurchRater.

I look forward to your thoughts. This church is willingly and excitedly entering into a new season. Give us your input as we move forward.

1 comment :

rick zemlin said...

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