So, today I went to Liberty Heights to get my oil changed. I forgot to bring a book with me and I didn’t really feel like sitting around watching bad local TV for an hour and a half. So instead I stepped out into the rain in my stylish black trench coat and fedora and took a wander around that neighborhood. Interestingly enough the mechanic I went to is in between two Lutheran churches, St. Paul and St. James…
Ironic I know—James the Brother of Jesus who Martin Luther accused of writing “a letter of straw” and the Apostle Paul who never knew Jesus before his experience of him post-resurrection when Jesus knocked him off his ass outside of Damascus.
So, I strut down to St. James. Water is billowing off the brim of my fedora. There are a few cars in the parking lot. I ring the bell, figuring I’d see what kind of hospitality the church has to offer. The secretary looks down the hall, through the glass and at me. I waved in my gentle smiley way. She shook her head and looked away.
Strike one for the Epistle of Straw. I wander around the building a little. There appears to be an outreach center of some sort. The building was in use, they just weren’t friendly to soaked strangers.
So I head back toward the city, pass the garage, and find my way to St. Paul’s. There were no cars in the parking lot… oh, and this parking lot, its to die for! Seriously! 100’s of spaces! And if you maxed out I’m sure you could sneak a few folk into the parking spaces of the apartment complex… and you know maybe some people could… I don’t know… walk to church.
So I ring the bell. No answer. I peek around a bit and see that another church uses their building too, and they at least have one AA group.
But seriously, the beautiful parking lot that could usher in hundreds of people seeking God’s word and love, redemption and recovery, and its empty!
All of this to reflect upon Church. There is that tired cliché “Church isn’t the building it’s the people.” Damn skippy! But still, in many cases we have a building!
I would maintain that yes, Church isn’t the building, it’s the people. But I would also say “What church people do with the building is the church.” How we are stewards to this building that is often used for formal worship only two, maybe three, days a week speaks volumes to our commitment to our community and how we model stewardship of those things that we have.
Maybe I've just been spoiled by the excess of activity at St. John's. We have a steady stream of 12 NA groups a week. Literally between 500-1000 people use our building as a safe space for those in recovery to gather. I hope that if I ever lead a community that has a building I'll do what I can to keep it buzzing.
Just a thought from a wet man with a newly oiled up car... and they topped up my windshield wiper fluid as well!