George Street United Church is a big edifice right on the main drag of Peterborough. When Lynn and I went to first check it out as a place I might work next - it seemed an imposing possibility. A bit daunting.
I joked about a naked pastor cartoon where two male preachers stand in front of their churches. One spire is much taller and the one Pastor says “Mine is bigger than yours”.
Lynn’s comment was ‘Yeah, you’ll have more empty seats than anyone else.” (The congregation currently runs with about 200 households.)
The Sanctuary is impressive but I already miss the projector and screen that the Bobcaygeon church has. The acoustics are amazing and the Pipe organ is as sacred an object as any you’ll find in that sanctuary.
George Street prides itself on being a “theologically progressive” congregation. The book studies are popular and they’ve entertained Bishop Spong, Gretta Vosper, and James Loney to name a few.
What I hope this means – and will soon discover I suppose – is that there is lots of room in their theological box. Are their minds as big as their sanctuary? Or, is “Progressive” just another theological position that heIps us decide who is “In” and who is “out” of the box?
I’ve encountered Progressive fundamentalists who claim such forward thinking that they regard anyone who doesn’t see what they see is either stupid, deluded, or just plain ol sinful. (The George Street website makes it clear that all are welcome and they see theological diversity as a good thing.)
Is it possible to have a church without boxes?
My own crisis of identity that I suffered through these last couple of years have reminded of two important facts.
First I recalled how much larger my faith is than any box of ideas could hold. When I first experienced, as a twenty-something, the presence of a Spirit who was personal to me, I knew this deity was so much more than the Christianity I’d grown up with.
I chose to call it Jesus.
Why not? The stories of Jesus were already in my heart and head. The Christian story of struggle for justice and wholeness were part of my DNA.
I chose to offer my life in service to that presence. The presence was one that I immediately trusted. The presence was as familiar to me as my own fingers and it was clear that it knew me inside out, up, down and sideways. “You open the doors LORD” I said “and I’ll walk through them” was what I offered then and that hasn’t changed. I love serving the LORD.
Was my invisible friend just a projection of my own best nature? A trick of my unconscious dancing with an overactive imagination? What was clear to me in that meeting was that the presence was not only close and intimate but also older than the moon we met under. The moon was a mere atom within the body of its being.
I knew that Christianity was so much smaller than this presence. I’d had a liberal education and knew religion to be a cultural construct. And I’d had a Sunday School education that taught me God’s love was…
so high, you can’t go over it
so low, you can’t get under it
so wide, you can’t go round it
-you gotta go in through the door
So I chose the door of my childhood. I could have chosen the door of another church or another religion. But I’m often lazy and always impatient to get on with things so I chose the door where I knew I’d have a head start.
The reminder came this past summer when a Healer had me use the power of my imagination to open up the space between pinched discs. She had me use my mind to open up the muscles squeezed tight to protect that hurt place.
On her foor I became so much larger than those tight, defensive, hurting places. The pinch became a crack in the cliff where I live. That meant my head lay miles away and my feet were the hills on the horizon. The river ran through me from far beyond with far to go.
So, as big as this Peterborough church is. As huge as the challenge of keeping it real is. As big as its ideas of who God really is. I know that my imagination, my faith, and the One who is timeless is just so much bigger.
The other side of that same coin is that… I am so much smaller than any box could hold. My part to play. My piece of the puzzle. My words and my influence are simply a note in the ageless symphony GOD’s spirit plays on. What box could hold music?
If I’m a leaf on a tree in this forest that houses me, then the task of my generation is to simply add another inch of topsoil to the home of the Most ancient of days.