Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sorry you got Christian-ed: One Christian Ministers struggle with Christians 

One Saturday morning, within steps of the Urban Abbey door, I was physically reminded why Christians can have a bad reputation.

At the Farmers' Market, people from across the city weave among the stands of local produce growers and artists, frequently with a cup of coffee in one hand and fresh greens peaking out of shopping bags perched over their shoulders. Children peer out from strollers; dog lovers paraded pets of all sizes. Beyond the locally grown food, the market offers an easy-going space in a society than often pushes our schedules into overdrive. People meet and share and taste. Everyone is welcome to this communion.

There I was, in the midst of this beauty, inviting folks to taste the Abby's coffee and tea whose sales support local non-profits such as Project Interfaith. Then it happened.

The woman took my coffee coupon – then asked whether I believe in Jesus.

"Well....," I began. Then she asked whether I believe Jesus died for my sins.

Before I could share my beliefs about the nature of Christ and humanity, that there is so much more to faith, she touched me, and not like Christmas carols or even Hallmark greeting cards can be touching. Holding my arm in one hand and raising her other hand into the air, the woman told me what I should have learned about the apostle Paul and that he wants me to go to heaven.

She moved in closer, rallying to her final talking point: "If anyone tells you there is more to it than Jesus’ death," she said, pausing for effect and then, tapping her index finger on the tip of my nose, she continued, “you should give them hell.”

Then she walked away.

I felt my nose. Did that just happen, a complete stranger tapping me on the nose, same as my grandfather used to when I was a child and he called me "Pumpkin" with a loving smile? My nose felt sensitive the rest of the day, not like a sunburn but more like it remembered.

Bystanders in the market gave me knowing looks, as if to say, “Sorry you got Christian-ed, I’ve been there, too.”

As a Christian minister I have written papers that explore her questions, and yet it is a stunning experience when you're not allowed even to respond. Truth is, I do believe there is more to the Christian faith than Jesus' death, and so much more than could fit on a bumper sticker. That’s why I hand out coffee coupons, not religious pamphlets. Faith is wildly complex, about relationship and not lectures. I believe anyone who wants to give the “right answers,” personal-space violations aside, misses out on the gifts of faith and the mystery of life.

That is why we gather at the Urban Abbey, to build community that has conversation and opens us to hear different voices. Maybe it's time we reclaim that part of the Christian faith tradition that Jesus modeled, the tradition that invited difference to the table and challenged in parables about everyday life.

Help us make this community of welcome. Gather with the courage to share your voice and the courage to listen. Join us Sunday evenings for something focused on life.  Join us Saturday mornings to welcome and connect.  Join in the journey.

I promise: no nose-tapping.

Rev. Debra McKnight, Urban Abbey Executive Director

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Upcoming Services at Urban Abbey

Coffee and Culture Night, Sunday July 8th, 5:30pm

       Join us to explore the coffee and culture of El Salvador.  Chris Smith, local artisan roaster and owner of Beansmith will lead the tasting as we connect with the sights and sounds of El Salvador.

Psalm Study, Sunday July 15th, 5:30pm

Eat. Pray. Love Worship Service, July 22nd, 5:30pm

      Join us to explore the relationship between ancient scriptures and modern life.

Honey Gathering, Sunday July 29th, 5:30pm

      Join us for a feast and bring your favorite or your new favorite dish that has honey as a key ingredient.