I drove back out to western Kansas the other day for a meeting. It was good to return from whence I had come, to the familiar, and see old friends and welcoming faces when I arrived at my destination. I have spent the majority of my life in western Kansas and have a deep appreciation for how my journey has helped mold and shape my life. Even in the short year and a half we have been here things have changed; new highways have been built, houses are new and/or gone, life has gone on there. The saying really is true “you can never go home again.” One might visit and remember and share in reminiscing, but it is never the same. There are things to let go, there is a time to move on, there are memories and experiences that are often best left in the past. Perhaps, familiar enough to always be a bit of home and uncomfortable enough to know I can never really fully return.
I am in the process of reading a new book by Diana Butler Bass who I had the honor of hearing present on her writing in Tulsa this last January before the book was released, “Christianity After Religion; The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening.” It is an intriguing and insightful book about the shift she sees in Christianity toward a more compassionate, inclusive, engaged, and relevant faith.
I have also on several occasions referred to the book “The Great Emergence; How Christianity is Changing and Why” by Phyllis Tickle, especially the portion in her writing about the “every five hundred year church rummage sale,” when the church cleans out its attic so to speak. It is in part about letting go, leaving behind those things of the faith that no longer speak to us with meaning, relevance, and inspiration. Both of these authors believe we are in the midst of a significant shift in the way the church exists in the world and how we live out our faith. I believe College Hill UMC has been on the threshold of many of the things these two authors, as well as others, see manifesting within the Christian faith, because of our progressive and inclusive stance and our focus on justice, welcome, equality, and love.
I will be teaching a class this summer in July on Phyllis Tickle’s book “The Great Emergence,” and hope many of you can come as we engage with the book and find places of contact and connection on our own journey. Also, I plan to have a class in the fall on Diana Butler Bass’s book, “Christianity After Religion,” as well as a sermon series on the same writings. My intent with this class will be to study the book along with the series and have opportunity to discuss not only the book but the sermon from the previous Sunday as well. I look forward to this as an opportunity to engage more deeply the book as well as letting the sermon for the week spark more and deeper discussion and understanding. I hope you will join me for both.
What a blessing it is for me to serve in this open and faithful community of faith as we look to a bright future of being a people of action, study, voice, and beacon of progressive theology, justice making, kindness, compassion, and love. I pray for myself, as well as all of us, that we find our place here at CHUM familiar enough to always be bit of home and uncomfortable enough to know we must live into the future with grace and light.
It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.