Monday, October 08, 2007

Getting my mind blown

Hardly anything went as planned today.

Go to colleague's lectionary Bible study and then, since Monday is secretary's day off and such a quiet day in the office, finally synch palm to google calendar (really it's getting too ridiculous not to have a calendar unless I'm sitting at my desk because I'm too lazy/busy to download a simple piece of software), make some worship plans and then go on a few visits.

1. Unexpected pastoral care visit.
Some things are very heartbreaking.
And many things are not easily fixable.

2. Unexpected visit to reschedule building usage.
Takes a while.

3. Unexpected call to schedule building usage.
Takes another little while.

4. Unexpected visit from a guy who wants his baby baptized.
He went to the church he grew up in and they wouldn't do it because he's not a member there. He stopped by our place since we are just down the street from where he lives. Turns out I kind of know people who are his family in Seattle - funny small world thing. Anyway, I used to be adamant about NOT baptizing unless a person was a member of the community, etc. A couple things have changed my mind. At my last call the senior pastor was much freer about baptizing than anyone I'd met before, so that was one example.

Then, my uncle told me this crazy story one time about being a young pastor with no shower, swimming in a creek, when he was accosted by a guy with a gun who wanted to be baptized (stop me if I've told you this one). My uncle, following the rules of the church, disagreed. Luckily, he avoided getting shot in the process. More than 30 years later, he tells this story with regret - he really wishes he would have baptized the guy, there in the creek.

So I re-thought. These days, I figure if baptism is really a sacrament, then it's really God's way of working in the world and I probably shouldn't get too uptight about the why's and wherefores of it, I should just let it do its work. I asked the guy to visit the the church once, told him I'd like to meet with him (we'll do it tomorrow) and then I will baptize a sweet, tiny boy. I'm guessing that lots of you will not agree with this approach, and I know that many churches will not allow it, but it feels right for this this place and time, and I'm happy that, even it's only for this this one day, we can be a home for a little family.

5. Scheduled meeting, did not go as planned.
We talk a lot in the UCC about being a home for people who have been damaged by more conservative traditions. I've certainly met people who have been bored to death by the church, and drifted away to the status of SBNR* but I dont think I've met a person before who , after an upbringing in a congregational church, grew up and got saved in an evangelical way. Until today.

After he called me about 4 times to set something up, I finally met with this guy from a neighboring evangelical church (after the secretary wrote on the final message - "HE IS NOT asking for money.") By their website, I can see that they rely on, no surprise, the Bible as their primary guide for living. They don't actually SAY "inerrant" but am I wrong to assume that? Anyway, he wants to talk about how we can partner with them around this Luis Palau revival thing that's happening here next summer. When I set up the meeting, I figured I'd take his stuff, tell him I'm not going to something where my gay and lesbian parishioners are going to be bashed, and send him on his way.

Instead, I find myself really liking the guy. And really listening to him. He's saying stuff like "we have things to learn from each other" and "we are open" and "we really want this (meaning the revival thing) to be a time to glorify Christ. For too long these things have been all about individual churches getting their names out there instead of worshiping God." and "Christians are so divided about politics, but we really want to come together about what we agree on, and work with organizations to help poor and hungry people."

After an hour, I have to go. I am rattled. I'm wondering if he's snowing me - pretending to be all open-minded so he can reel me into something that's going to expose me or my congregation to embarrassment or outrage. But I'm more afraid that he's in earnest than that he's faking me out. I'm realize that I'm afraid, actually afraid, that somehow contact with a dedicated, loving and successful Christian will infect the people at my church with dis-ease and dissatisfaction. Afraid that if we really find that we can work together across/along such radical theological lines, our denominations will disappear and leave us all drifting. Afraid of what it really means if I really mean what I say sometimes that "we have a lot to learn from evangelicals about what it means to surrender to God."

I've always prided myself on being quite open-minded and accepting, but I'm not, really. No more accepting of the Bible church guy than I would imagine he might be of me. I told him I will talk to the church leaders about the revival thing - that is the commitment I made. He invited me and J to a dinner and speech, with him and his wife (ok, my stereotype is all that I'm not going to have enough hairspray for this event - see how rotten my thinking is?). Anyway, J wants to go (he's been reading about evolution and intelligent design and he's all fired up to get INTO it with someone), so I guess we will if it works out. In the meantime, I'm praying, praying hard. My prayer is: "Show me the way, show me the way."

If you know anything about Luis Palau, and particularly what he might mean for progressive Christians, I'd be glad to hear it.

6. Scheduled meeting downtown.
Planned to get lost. Did not in fact, get lost. Arrived on time.

See? A day chock full of surprises.

*Spiritual But Not Religious


Brian said...

This is the second time in the last few months I have heard the name Luis Palau. He was an evangelist from the time I was at Moody Bible Institute. He was being considered the next Billy Graham.

Last month when we were organizing the 9/11 Unity walk his name was suggested as a possible Evangelical speaker who would be open to the Interfaith aspect of our march. We didn't end up asking him, but I was shocked. Someone indicated that his son was moving his ministry toward more openness and dialogue. I am still skeptical. Having been a part of their "apologetical"dialogue I am not convinced this isn't just wolves in sheeps clothing.

cheesehead said...

The theology of "at this place and time" works for me!

Kathryn said...

From my perspective, if someone seeks baptism, it's not ours to withold - so I'm really glad that you are running with this. Hope it's a blessing to you and your community as well as to the family involved

Mrs. M said...

I can totally relate to #5. Good for you for making an effort, even if you're uncertain.

Katherine said...

I love your reflections about your day. Some days I feel like I just go through the motions - so good to be reminded how much more fulfilling and effective ministry is when the minister is so thoughtful. :-)

Mother Laura said...

I am so glad to hear you decided to welcome the baby to the Christian community without insisting that they become members of yours....And who knows, it might develop into a relationship esp. if you keep reaching out to the family. There was an Episcopal church in San Diego that practiced open baptism and welcomed families without pressuring them and about half did end up worshipping there. But as you say the grace of God will work in that little spirit and that family regardless.

You might also give them some references to simple resources about family spirituality and practices that they can use in their domestic church....

Wyldth1ng said...

Thank you for doing what you do.

I hope your path leads you to fortune.