So I went to church this morning. Yep. I did.
Unusually, Lisa had the weekend off. So we made plans to go to St. Stephen, about 1.5 hours away right on the Canada/US border, and visit our friends, Peter and Mary-Ellen Fitch. We’ve been friends with them ever since we joined the Vineyard here in 1996 and pastored a Vineyard church. They were always very supportive, encouraging and affirming.
So we went down yesterday. We had a lovely meal of baked salmon with this incredible sauce on it… some kind of teriyaki sauce heavy with soy that she made with tons of mushrooms over top. The mushrooms had this almost burnt flavor to them. It was unbelievable! We had some micro breweries beer. Drank some great wine. Then late at night he pulled out some single-malt scotches, including a bottle of my absolute favorite, Lagavulin! We talked and talked and talked. What a night. Refreshing.
This morning we went to their church. It was typical Vineyard, with people milling around in everyday clothes, loud worship band playing songs including a couple of Mumford and Sons tunes, kids loud and everywhere, coffee break, and a conversational type of message. I was kinda nervous at first. But I warmed up to it. It was actually, well, nice.
Here’s three observations I would like you to read.
1. I felt loved: We met so many people we used to see quite often. And they were so kind to us. Happy to see us. Some people even put on their Facebooks, “David Hayward, the nakedpastor, is showing up at church today!” We were swarmed with nice people. Genuinely nice people. I’m always nervous going into a public place because nakedpastor isn’t loved by everybody. But these guys loved Lisa and I. They really seemed to care and be interested in us. Some people even invited us to come over for a meal and hang out, including some students from St. Stephen’s University there. Kids were everywhere. Young people. Some disadvantaged people. Disabled people. All kinds. And there was a real strong sense of mutual love, respect and community. Even Peter’s message was about how we are all not only loved but liked. It was nice to be in that kind of warmth.
2. I felt valued: It’s strange how paranoid I become sometimes. I’m so used to getting attacked and criticized every day that when someone comes along and says how much they appreciate me, it always throws me back. So many people came up to Lisa and I and were genuinely interested in us and what we were up to. Those who got up to give an announcement or mention a charity they were asking for help with got incredible encouragement from those in the congregation. “Good job!” “You’re awesome!” “Thanks so much for doing this! You really are making a difference in the world!” And so on. And this sense of being valued was obviously felt by everyone. It was obvious everyone there felt valued equally and therefore had an equal voice in the life of that community. In fact, some students want me to come back and give some more talks at their university similar to <a href=”http://youtu.be/BlITkaYarV4″>this one I did there before</a>. Peter asked me to come back soon and speak to the church. Geez! I’m not used to that kind of affirmation. It felt gooooood.
3. I felt stretched: Peter taught. He’s always been a very gentle teacher because he’s a gentle man. He’s always very encouraging, affirming and non-controlling. Sometimes I’ve thought he’s just toooooo nice. But when he was teaching today I was impressed by his ability to ask good questions and pull us all out of our comfortable little worlds. My respect for him grew immensely when he wrote and self-published his book, Learning to Interpret Toward Love: Actually Embracing People of Different Sexuality. It has cost him friendships, teaching opportunities, contracts, respect within the Vineyard and larger church, as well as many members leaving his own church. I felt it was important enough to write and publicize even in the face of incredible risk. So even though his church community is all loving and affirming, it is also radical and is taking steps to love in radical and even controversial ways. It was cool to feel a part of that in a community of people with different sexualities.
Actually, Peter, Mary-Ellen, Lisa and I talked a lot about community. They were very curious about The Lasting Supper. It turns out that the values he has for community are very much the same as mine were for our last church, and are very much the same as the values for The Lasting Supper community. It renewed my conviction that we are really doing the right thing here.
We love each other. We value each other. We will stretch each other.
Much love my valuable stretchy friends!