Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Slide Show Celebrating 50 Years

This week-end, my church celebrates 50 years of ministry. I've only been a member of this church for 2 years, so I sort of feel like I'm crashing the party.

At last night's celebration dinner, we watched a 15 minute slide show. Various people have been going through the archives, a word I'm using loosely, and putting together exhibits, so the slide show was mostly photos. You'd think that I'd find the slide show boring, since I didn't know any of those people.

On the contrary, I found it a fascinating study of your typical, suburban, ELCA church. Here's the sign from the time when the church was still an LCA church. Here's an updated sign--now we're ELCA. Here are the pictures from the 60's, with more children than we can count. Here are the 1960's confirmands, huge groups in hideous robes. Here are more recent groups, 3-5 teenagers not wearing robes. Vacation Bible School pictures seem the same from generation to generation: only the haircuts change, but summer clothes for kids don't seem to vary much through the decades. Here we are on various trips. Watch people in the kitchen through the years.

One of the things I have always loved about church is that we socialize with all sorts of people we'd never meet otherwise. All socioeconomic groups come through the door. Through my time in church, I've even had meals with homeless people, which never would have happened to this middle-class suburban girl otherwise. If we're lucky, we attend a church that welcomes a variety of races, a struggle mostly settled, which might be akin to the struggles we face with homosexuality today. If we're really lucky, perhaps we go to a church that flings wide open the doors to transgendered people.

I must confess that the people in the slideshow seemed on the surface to be mostly white, mostly heterosexual, mostly dressed the same. Until recently, that's been the church, at least in the suburbs. But the church I attend on Sunday mornings is different than the church of my childhood, the church of that slide show. We're a mixed racial group, which isn't unusual in South Florida. We've got all ages, although not as many children as in the past. Some weeks, I share a pew with a person who is in the process of changing sex from male to female, and who doesn't mind talking about that process, which is fascinating to me. That person wouldn't have been welcomed in the church of my childhood. I'm sure there are plenty of people in my current church who are deeply uncomfortable.

But Jesus didn't come to make us all comfortable. Jesus came to shake up our safe little worlds. Jesus came to invite us to be part of a Kingdom where we'll eat with the homeless and sing with the transgendered. The Good News isn't that a suburban church still exists after 50 years, although I'm not discounting that achievement. The Good News is that the Kingdom is big enough for all of us, suburban or urban, any race, any socioeconomic class, all along the spectrum of gender and sexuality.

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