Be the Church – Go Where Needed

I spent the last two weeks in Sydney, Australia, visiting my sister Paige who recently moved there to be with her partner, Andrew. It has been more than a year since I’ve traveled out of the country – I have missed it! I love the process of absorbing, and being absorbed into, a new community. It’s a spiritual practice for me. I find that during those trips I see what parts of my life are most essential and of what can easily be released.

One thing I was reminded of on the trip is how much I like to stay connected to the work even when traveling. Halfway through my trip to Sydney I began to express this desire and the world responded! One of Paige’s colleagues, Alex, connected me to her family priest, Fighting Father Dave. Dave got that nickname from of the fight club he runs in his neighborhood to keep kids off the streets, his tenacious and pugnacious spirit, and his general commitment to fighting the good fight for equality.

We met for coffee Friday morning at a small café. As I walked into the café I scanned the room and spotted a man wearing a blue clerical shirt and two crosses around his neck, he was juggling multiple electronic devices and eating eggs and greens. I loved him immediately.

Our conversation was one of laughter and deep resonance: we lamented over the violence in the US, our respective nations’ complicity in the occupation of Palestine, the fear that prevents the Church from being about the bold work of justice. We shared how we had been transformed through the Church’s commitment to the work of Christ and felt compelled to make sure the Church continued in this work.

Dave offers a bold witness to the inclusive and reconciling love of Christ in a fairly conservative context. He welcomes women as leaders and builds partnerships with the Muslim community around him. He is the real deal, going so far as to travel to Syria to be about God’s work of reconciling.  He is answering the world’s needs and the Church would do well to follow suit. I felt humbled in his presence. I thought, I want to be like this, I want my life to be so clearly committed to creating a new world that it takes people aback. I also want more people in my life like Dave.

I shared that desire with Dave and asked him, how do we build leaders who understand the work of the Church? He said to me, “They have got to go where the Church is needed.” I thought of my time in Kenya or of the 12-Step Community, he is right, we are most the Church when we are instinctively responding to real need or pain. This sort of interaction can happen in all situations – no matter the social/economic status – it only requires that the need is recognized and expressed. This why the work is harder in our monetarily wealthy communities, need is present but hidden and this makes it very difficult to build a responsive and healing Church. It is the work of leaders in the Church to uncover those needs.

Towards the end of our time together Dave asked if I would preach at the parish on Sunday. I, of course, said yes. You can listen to the sermon here. It is based off this text from the lectionary passage from Luke that pairs a warning about the end of times with the promise of redemption. I invite us to see death, dying and ending not as signs of sadness but instead as the beginning of something new. It asks us to believe, as Jesus promised, that despite the apparent end our redemption is near. It challenges us to live in a way that embraces death as a way to new life. I specifically speak to the opportunity the Church of the global Church to embrace the end of establishment church and embrace new ways of being about the ministry of reconciliation in your local context. I hope you enjoy. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

In the Blessing,

Natalie

 

 

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