This is how church works . . . and I’m just going to say it . . . and I’m going to say it for my colleagues out there in church world doing their best and giving their best and trying their best . . . it’s not about you. It’s not about what you want. It’s not about the color of carpet you prefer. It’s not about which staff person you like or don’t like, the choir’s anthem you love or despise, and it’s not about what the minister said or didn’t say last week in his or her sermon.
Church is bigger than you. It transcends your personal taste. It goes beyond personal preference. Church is about a bigger cause, a bigger unity, and a bigger purpose than any one person. It’s about caring for all God’s children. It’s about making room for the stranger at the table of God. It’s about enlarging the beloved community so that all God’s children, young and old, straight, gay or confused, black, brown or white, male, female, transgendered, rich and poor, educated and uneducated can find their place. Church is the idea / belief / hope / feeling / aspiration / practice that makes sure everyone counts. And that means it’s always bigger than any one person, even though every person matters and the individual conscience should be honored.
This means that church only works when people learn to listen to one another, make decisions together, and are guided by something bigger, higher, deeper than their personal needs or wants. What is that bigger, higher, deeper thing? Well, that thing is God. God is the resonating energy of idealism that lives inside the human heart, an energy of love that calls us to affirm the humanity of all God’s children, and beyond that, to affirm the beauty and essential integrity of all creation.
So, what do we learn in church? We learn to love. And listen. And accept. We also learn to challenge one another to reach higher, think more clearly, feel more deeply, and when the time comes to pull together for a common good, a great good that transcends personal preference, then we do it. Why? Because we’re a church. A group of individuals who believe that religion is deeply personal, but which is always, always, always shared with others.