I've been taking part in a wonderful, intelligent discussion about religion and atheism on a friend's Facebook page. Normally such discussion devolve into hate-filled name calling and accusations about affiliation with the Nazi party but this one - though challenging - is devoid of that. It's refreshing. Normally, I would shy away from such a discussion because I worry that my Biblical knowledge isn't enough to support my beliefs and opinions in such a discussion but that isn't the case in this. One of the nice things about Facebook is the ability to let a conversation hang for a moment while you gather your thoughts and articulate your beliefs. It helps that the person (whom I do not know personally...he's a friend of the person on whose FB page the conversation is taking place) is open to the discussion, willing to articulate his beliefs and how he reached them without necessarily insulting or tearing down my opinions (which run counter to his). He's challenging my beliefs but not attacking them and that is incredibly uncommon today. It's been a great conversation.
"We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, 'Dydw i ddim yn siarad Seasneg'. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rake, or could stand to lose a few pounds.
We welcome you if you can sing like Pavarotti or are like our Vicar (who can't carry a note in a bucket). You're welcome here if you're 'just browsing', just woke up, or just got out of prison. We don't care if you're more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven't been to church since little Jack's christening.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you're having problems or you're down in the dumps or if you don't like 'organized religion'. We've been there too!
If you blew all your money on the horses, you're welcome here. We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don't work, can't spell, or because Grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked, pierce, or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throat as a kid, or got lost in Builth's one way system and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts...and you!"
I think this should be read at the beginning of every church service. Goodness knows, I need the reminder! Today, in church, I sat up in the balcony (because that's my safe zone where my introverted self is comfortable) and about half way through worship, this family came in. They had 3 children, the youngest about 6. It took them a few minutes to figure out where each of them was going to sit and it kind of disrupted my enjoyment of the worship. Then the middle child started arguing with the youngest boy and the parents struggled to get them to settle down. Then the daughter couldn't see and they rearranged themselves again. Worship ended and the youngest went off to class but the middle boy continued to fidget and be kind of a pain. It was obvious he craved attention - even the negative kind. And he garnered plenty of that. Rather than ignore the boy's behavior (which really didn't seem to be that big of a deal) or take him out of the sanctuary, the dad fussed at him and it escalated from there. Needless to say, it was hard to pay attention to the sermon. And I started to get grumpy and frustrated - how dare these people come and invade my bubble and get in the way of my enjoyment of the sermon.
And then I realized what an ass I was being (in my own head, thankfully). They weren't doing any of this intentionally (well, the boy was intentionally being a pain but it wasn't directed at me) and really, all it took was a little extra focus on my part to pay attention to the sermon. So I prayed. I prayed for this family and this boy who craved attention. I prayed that God would help me fix my lousy attitude and help me 'love my neighbor' rather than stew in my grumpiness.
Someone once said to me that church is not a country club - it's not a place for people who have it all together. It's a hospital for those that are hurting or in need of something. And aren't we all?
Yes. Yes we are.