Friday, April 15, 2011

From Yesterday's Newpaper

I was the editorial writer yesterday for the local ministerial association's weekly column.
-The Archer

You Are Invited!

Clergy get asked strange questions at random times in public settings. Some people feel the need to defend or explain themselves, even they do not personally know the cleric in question or even to what denomination the particular cleric belongs. Such questions are often really declaratory sentences to which there is no easy response. This is simply an occupational hazard to which clergy have to adapt.

I was somewhat taken aback by such a declaratory question that was posed to me last week. A lady came up to me as I was at a local park in town as I was taking the opportunity to enjoy the nice weather. I was obviously wearing my black clergy shirt and clerical collar. Such clerical attire often attracts such declaratory questions much like those blue fluorescent zappers that people have on their back porches during the summer months attract bugs. She simply walked up and asked me, "Why didn't you people ever tell me that church wasn't boring?!?"

As is often the case with such random questions, an immediate, logical, and pastoral response is expected. I have no doubt that my initial response contained all but three of those qualities. The message I tried to convey was that I have never personally thought "church" was boring. I would not be doing this job if I did.

The lady and I went on to have a brief conversation in which she told me that churches to her had always been "cold, severe places" where you "went and got preached at" and "told off on a Sunday." The gist of her story was that she had recently returned to church, discovered that there are a variety of speakers and approaches to worship, and felt very welcomed. "I don’t remember church being like that in my youth,” she said, "You should tell people this."

She was, of course, perfectly correct in that assertion. In an increasingly secular society, the Church is sometimes very bad at communicating things that regular church goers and clergy often take for granted. This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, and in many churches, this kicks off Holy Week and Easter. Many churches have beautiful and powerful services and opportunities to hear again the message and love of Jesus Christ and to reconnect to a church family.

Many people wrongly feel that church is boring, that they need to have their life in order before they come to church, or that they are simply not invited. Nothing could be further from the truth. While our churches are places of peace, simple ceremony, and friendship, the Church has a powerful message of hope, love, and redemption to share. On behalf of the Brookings Ministerial Association, I, personally, invite you to come back to the church of your choice in the coming weeks for I can assure you that the encounter will be anything but boring.

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