Saturday, February 26, 2011

Vunerability and Radical Welcome

Another colleague of mine (as one of my seminary professors used to say "I am not original.") recently highlighted the following talk by Dr. Brene Brown discussing the necessity for vulnerability in our lives. Take a look:

This dovetails with the talk about Radical Welcome from The Rev. Stephanie Spellers at our clergy conference a couple of weeks ago. At that conference, she invited us to share with one other person two experiences: an experience of being unwelcome and an experience of being welcome. In the midst of that, I realized that my entire ministry has been about creating and nurturing community--a place where people feel welcome and connected. A place, frankly, where people can be free to be vulnerable and admit their imperfections.

Frankly, and highly ironically, the church often makes this difficult. One would think that a faith tradition that is founded on the paradox of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ would be the most welcoming to imperfect, shameful, vulnerable people. Instead, we've put ourselves out there as perfect people who have it together and just need a little touch-up or polish on Sunday mornings. Our perhaps unintentional message is that you are welcome to come to church if you are certain of what you believe, your life is nearly perfect, and you can navigate your way around a church service pretty easily.

I seriously doubt anyone qualifies to come to church under those restrictions.

Few people are certain of what they believe, and the ones that are most certain are often the most resistant to growing in their faith and understanding. Few people's lives qualify as anything close to perfect, especially in the world we live in today. Few people who have not grown up in the church have any idea what to do and when to do it.

So where does that leave me as a pastor and priest and St. Edward's as a congregation? It means that we need to be intentional about creating a place where anyone, doubter, seeker, or curious visitor, can explore the Christian faith. We need to be explicit that our church is a  place where you don't need to be perfect to walk in the door. We need to be helpful to those people who enter our doors for the first time so that they can be participants and not just spectators in our services. Finally, we need to proclaim far and wide that we're doing this, we're going to repeatedly fail at it, but we're going to keep trying.


Nixon is Lord said...

Church is boring. Why should I waste time, money and effort trying to find out something about somebody who's invisible and inaudible? Why should I run twice as fast to stay in the same place?

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

Well, the fact that you think "Nixon is Lord" might offer a clue that you consider enlarging your horizons. If your life is rich with meaning as it currently stands, well and good. If not, find a non-boring church that worships our non-boring God. See how that works for you...