Sunday, October 29, 2006

Open House

In the 8 1/2 years that we've been married, Steve and I have regularly attended and/or joined no less than 6 churches. Before you label us "church hoppers," please know that the majority of these church changes have had to do with either a) moving or b) Steve's career change.

And you know what? It's not easy to become integrated into a church community. People in churches already have friends who know them, who have a shared history, who can share jokes over coffee after the worship service. And the newbies, if they're anything like me, will stand awkwardly in the crowd for a few minutes and then bolt out the door. Honestly, that time of "fellowship" after the service can be brutal for a person who is new to the congregation.

It was always nice when people introduced themselves to us and welcomed us to the church. But often, what happened (and please, I know I'm guilty of this, too) is that the brief introductions were as far as it went...the next Sunday, the people were back in their circle of friends and we, the newbies, were bolting out the door, too intimidated to break into the tight-knit group.

But here's what made the difference: People invited us into their homes. I was always thrilled to be invited, thrilled that someone cared enough about getting to know me and my family that they would extend the invitation. When people invited us into their homes, they made themselves vulnerable to us--see, this is where we live our lives... this piece of furniture that was my great-grandmother's, this piano that I never play in public, this dog with the obedience issue, these books that I read, this room that hasn't been redecorated for 15 years...And in response to this gift of hospitality, we felt more comfortable sharing our stories and our lives. I couldn't have cared less if the plates were chipped or if they were fine china. The food could have been frozen TV dinners, and it wouldn't have mattered. What mattered was that we were becoming part of the community.

I'm thinking about this today because Steve suggested we invite an acquaintance to our apartment for dinner, and my first reaction was, "No way. Our apartment is too small. We don't even have a proper table to eat on. What would I cook in this tiny kitchen that could possibly impress this man?"
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Was I actually going deny this man hospitality because things wouldn't be perfect? In my pride, I easily forget the power of Christian community.

I've enjoyed a book, Re-imagining Spiritual Formation, which tells the story of Solomon's Porch Community, a church in Minneapolis. In this book, Pastor Doug Pagitt and the SP members talk about their Wednesday night dinners, which are large, informal gatherings that happen in members' homes. What I remember clearly is how Doug explains that they intentionally leave tasks incomplete--the table unset, the salad untossed, that sort of thing-- so that anyone who wants to can join in and be part of the group effort. Perfection is not the goal; building community is. It sounds lovely, and I would love to invite myself to a Solomon's Porch Wednesday night dinner sometime. Better yet, I'd love to start something similar here.


superstar said...
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chelle said...

I haven't been a church newbie in 20 years, weird. Your perception is right on about the circle of folks that week after week, month after month etc. convene with hardly ever a newbie in the bunch. I am highly guilty of this, worse yet I am one who sometimes wants to bolt out the door because it is just easier that actually trying to start up a conversation--I hate to even admit it. This is a good thing to talk about and to really put our hearts into.

Anonymous said...

Love this - I have had Soup's On at my house for 3 years on Thursday nights - we moved to church this year and it is not the same!!!! There is something about a home !!! Jane

Anonymous said...

I totally understand this, I am finally feeling like I know someone and you make me want to invite someone over who I just met today who doesn't really know anyone like me. It's hard to put yourself out there and not know if any one with accept you.

julie F

Miriam said...

Hey, Dana. I came across your blog via Andy Booth's site. Love it! This post so resonated with some things stirring in me. When I get a chance, I think I'll link it in a post on my blog.

Blessings - look forward to visiting again.