Thursday, July 24, 2008

Faithful Communities

The version of Christianity that appears in the media often embarrasses me: it's narrow, sectarian, exclusive and sometimes mean-spirited. So it was a joy to find in the May 26 New Yorker an article by novelist Ian Frazier about a church being a church in the best sense. So begins John M. Buchanan in an article titled, Something Christlike, in the July 29 issue of Christian Century. It is the story of a small Episcopal Church in New York City, The Church of the Holy Apostles, that had dwindled in membership and was contemplating closing its' doors. Frazier writes that, A new rector suggested that "if Holy Apostles is going out of business, it might as well do some good before it does."So in 1982 the church launched a free-lunch program. Thirty five people showed up and now the congregation is serving 1200 meals a day. Buchanan concludes the article, Maybe the world would find churches more interesting and compelling if they showed something of the love of Jesus in their lives and practices. Maybe there is no more important and life-giving strategy for every church than finding something Christlike to do. You can read the Frazier article by clicking here.
Many congregations around the country are sharing Jesus' love in similar ways and the general public never hears about them. I am blessed at the present time to be ministering part time with a very small and struggling Lutheran congregation, Grace in Schenectady, NY. They are not sure what the future holds for them as a faith community yet they continue to reach out to those in need. Last Wednesday morning I stopped by the church to find three women making 300 sandwiches to be shared at Bethesda House in Schenectady, NY. Bethesda is a neighborhood settlement house, which under its director Margaret Anderton, has been providing some 130 free meals a day, clothing, and social services to the poor and needy, many of whom are disabled by alcohol and drug addiction and/or mental illness. There are thousands of stories like these two but we rarely see them in print. This day I give thanks for the many faith communities, large and small, who truly "walk the talk" of our faith by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and working for justice.


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