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As I told those attending the Meekhof Lectures in the Seattle area a few weeks ago, “If my dreams are any indication, I have much unfinished business with the church.”
One morning of last week’s Georgia Winter Institute, just before I woke, I had a dream of church in which people of diverse race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender identity, abilities, and beliefs were having quite a good time talking over differences amiably, even kidding one another, but with no “gotchas” or condemnation or competition. It was so moving to experience that I awoke with tears in my eyes.
No doubt it was a reflection of what we were experiencing at GWI 2014. People with disabilities are themselves diverse, but they also gather people around them who differ in almost every way except the fulfillment we experience recognizing the power and potential of people facing intellectual and physical challenges—our family members, friends, neighbors, strangers, clients, patients, parishioners, and community members. Their stories were central to building the community we achieved during our days together.
As often happens after a successful retreat with people who coalesce, I would think many of us had the thought, “Why can’t it always be this way?” And, in my dream within a dream, I clearly yearned for a church that was as good at diversity as this gathering had been. And sometimes, we are. Though my leadership was more along the line of “generic” spirituality, I mentioned during a conversational segment that the early church was attractive not so much because of its beliefs, but because the first Christians were so kind and compassionate to one another and their communities.
I counted among my new friends several Pentecostals and a Promise Keeper, as well as a soldier who was not part of our group but, as a fellow guest of the hotel, was drawn to what we were about. The philosophy of the conference was not only building community among ourselves, but also with the citizens of Columbus, Georgia, and its environs.
I am writing this on an American high holy day, Super Bowl Sunday. This morning I awoke to quite another dream about the church, extremely vivid and detailed enough to become another Book of Revelation! Or perhaps Hildegard of Bingen’s visions that I’m currently reading are rubbing off on me?
In this dream, I had been asked to meet with a committee of a church I once served asking what I thought if they spent their endowment on their current expenses, and I advised them the money was given for future generations and that they should build into their current budget what they needed so their present church generation understood how much it costs to run a church, rather than squander their capital. I doubted the committee would take my advice.
Because in the dream (and in reality) it was Sunday morning, I considered staying for worship. But the scenes that unfolded around me were both dramatic like a mega-church and chaotic like a three ring circus, everything happening at once. Instead of one there were seven tall pulpits, spaced on an angle on the raised chancel like on a brow of ship, each bearing the name of a pastor in bronze-cast letters. And the one leading worship was dressed like he was about to perform The Mikado!
As I tried to leave, I kept remembering things I had to do, or I’d run into someone I knew who wanted to talk, and after clearing these hurdles, I found that parts of my clothing and the items I was carrying kept getting caught on things, resisting my departure.
As I wrote at the beginning, “If my dreams are any indication, I have much unfinished business with the church.”
Next week’s post also about GWI 2014:
“Pride Goeth before a Fall”—and Getting Back Up!
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