So, Matt and I were in the Bay Area for a wedding this past weekend. On Sunday, I did something (I confess) I don't always do on a Sunday off of preaching: I went to church.
Going to worship at Glide in San Francisco doesn't take so much self-discipline, though. It's not like penance. It's good vacation activity.
Afterwards, we were talking about what we liked. Matt said, "I think that's what church should always be like."
One of the things I liked was that they gave word to what felt true there: they were clear about naming that everyone is welcome. Poor, rich, gay, lesbian, straight, transgendered, Bible-knowing, Bible-ignorant, confused, clear, clean, addicted, of any race, old, young... And, they made it fun to be together. We remembered that it was a special place--that the whole world isn't like that. Which made it sweeter, more precious, and wonderful.
I didn't have to worry that MY experience was isolated: that other people were judging folks who entered. Or that what SEEMED like an embrace of all humanity was just a sort of an odd accident. They said it plain and clear: we're all celebrated.
I sat next to a man who was there for the first time. We didn't talk much, but it was clear he both new the words and the ASL signs for many of the songs we sang. Especially the ones that you might hear on Christian radio. It was also clear that he was experiencing, for the first time, that he was welcome AS HE WAS there--that he didn't have to hide anything. It was pretty beautiful.
On his other side was a friend who kept pulling out his phone. Which really annoyed me 'til I realized he was using it to take notes on the sermon. For real. That made me happy.
And, in a little way, reminded me about what's cool about church (at least, about church as it's supposed to be): it makes you confront little assumptions and judgments within yourself, and connect to something better. Richer. More beautiful.
So there we were, having our little post-worship discussion in the car, and Matt asked a hard question: so what's stopping you from making church like that?
Now, I don't want to complain: I'm pretty in love with a lot of the worship I get to lead. I treasure the community. I thrive on the sense of creative play I get to use. But somehow we come short of the kind of wild, all-inclusive joy that animates Glide. And usually, I let me fear of offending some people get in the way of saying things as clearly as the worship leaders at Glide did.
So, now I've gotta figure some things out...