I Believe in the Church, by Rev. David Mallory

With a trumpet of shock in her voice, the young woman said to me, “these people don’t even know me and yet they are constantly asking what they can do to help.” Her and her husband had been casually visiting the congregation for several months when he was severely injured in a boating accident. Members of the church had been showering them with food, cards, companionship, prayers and love. She was dumbfounded by the response.

Over the last number of decades, a great deal of criticism has been pointed at the church for being archaic and out-of-touch. Much of this is deserved. However, even with her many shortcomings, I still believe in the church.

Human beings are created as social creatures. Particularly in times of hardship and struggle, we cope most effectively when we are rooted in safe and meaningful relationships. Yet there are so few arenas in which these healthy relationships can be nurtured. Schools are often fractured  by bullying and social ladders. Corporate America is more concerned with profits than with people. Even local neighborhoods are often fenced by mistrust. In a world in which rampant individualism and crippling isolation are commonplace, the church is a sanctuary where all of God’s creatures can gather at the same table. There is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free. The leopard can lie with the goat and the cow can feed with the bear. With all of her faults and failures, the church is still one of the few venues in which our commonness as the beloved children of God is celebrated. For this reason, I believe in the church.

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GA TIB BOOK David MalloryDavid Mallory is the Senior Minister of Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prior to that, he was the Senior Minister at the First Christian Church of Albany, Texas. A second career minister, he graduated from Brite Divinity School in 2000. He is the husband of Amy, father of Robert and Stacey and soon to be a granddad. Wow, he’s old!

I Believe in the Church, by Rev. Allison Lanza

Dear Church,

I was watching you this weekend. It was early on a Saturday morning. 20 of you were holding hands in a circle in that old fellowship hall.  I noticed how diverse you were.  In that circle some of you were children, some young adults, some weathered and wise from many years on this planet.  Some of you were black and some white. Some had large houses, some 1 room apartments, and some of you had nowhere to call home.  Some of you have been going to church since you were babies and others walked into this strange community just a few months ago. In that circle you were CEO’s, janitors, marathon runners, chemo patients, addicts, granddads and moms.  I saw how different you were, but I don’t think you noticed the differences.  I could see in the way you treated each other that you saw the other faces around the circle just as fellow church members, as equal, beloved children of God.  Standing there you prayed that God’s love might be known through bread and smiles.  Then you went outside.  You spent the morning giving out free fresh produce to your neighbors.  When folks asked if they qualified for food, you told them, “yes, this is for everyone!”  When they asked how much food they could take, you said, “as much as you want, take some for your friends and neighbors too.”

Church, this weekend, I saw you at your best.  You were following in Jesus’ footsteps as you gave food to the hungry and loved your neighbors as yourself, no questions asked.  You trusted in God’s abundance and generosity instead of trusting in your own fear that there might not be enough.  It was beautiful.

A lot of folks are losing faith in you church.  I see where they are coming from.  Too often you have chosen shame instead of grace.  You have closed your doors and told some members of the body of Christ that they are not welcome because of who they love, or because they ask questions, or because they do not believe exactly the same way that you do. You have tried too hard to be cool and powerful and in doing so you have sometimes left Jesus and his teachings behind. You have gotten stuck in your ways, unwilling to change.

In spite of this, I still believe in you.  I don’t believe this is who you really are.  I just think this is what you act like when you are afraid.  You are better than this.  Church, I believe in you because I have seen you when you are at your very best.

I have seen you baptize a child and promise to raise them in God’s love, and then I have watched you follow through.  I have seen you bring casseroles to a devastated family and read psalms beside the hospital bed.  I have seen you show up when the tornado hits and stay long after the news cameras have left.  I have watched you help teenagers hear God’s still, small voice and I have seen you whisper to the outcast, “you are God’s beloved child and you are welcome here.”

I have heard your prophetic voice crying for justice, your hymns sung out in praise and your quiet prayers whispered into the silence.  I have watched as you fed the hungry, visited the imprisoned, healed the sick, and let the oppressed go free.  I watched you knock down the walls that divide us and invite us into one community as sisters and brothers in God.  When the world says, be afraid, I have heard you whisper, love.  I have seen you proclaim that love has overcome hate, life has overcome death, and that hope will have the final say. I have watched you live as if you really believe, in spite of the evidence otherwise, that this might be true.

I believe in you church.

I believe in you because you raised me.  I have seen you come alive.

So, let go of your fear.  Be God’s church in this world again.

We need you.

You can do it.

I believe in you.

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GA TIB BOOK Allison LanzaRev. Allison Lanza serves as an Associate Chaplain at TCU.  Prior to this she served at Hillyer Memorial Christian Church in Raleigh NC.  She graduated from Trinity University and Vanderbilt Divinity School.  She is a part of Ridglea Christian Church in Fort Worth.  The daughter of a TCU professor, she has been a horned frog since birth!