I love the Church. To be clear, I love the old, mainline, rooted in tradition, liturgical, theologically complex, organ-blaring, butt-numbing pew kind of church. I have given my life to this Church. I am passionate in her service. I am emboldened to lead a new generation through her doors. And yet, sometimes I stop to wonder why?
The Church has challenged me and nurtured me in all the ways I needed to be challenged and nurtured. She put me in a pulpit and told me to preach. Only then did I discover my voice. She pushed me to follow Jesus behind the prison walls, within the mental health ward, to the communities of Mexico, to the rural poor of South Carolina, and into homes of impoverished families living in my own community. She taught me profound spiritual practices. She introduced me to the most inspiring of people. She opened the scriptures for me and she surrounded me with a community the likes of which cannot be found on Facebook.
But the Church has not always been good to me. She passed me by for positions in favor of a less experienced, less talented man. She passed my husband by for positions because as a working pastor myself I could not be the traditional “pastor’s wife.” She, the Church, placed me in some horribly dysfunctional congregations working with some horribly dysfunctional people. And she, the Church, has made me sit through committee meeting after committee meeting after committee meeting during which a LOT was said, but little was actually done. (This could be a form of human torture.)
Yet, in the face of her flaws (the mistakes she refuses to confess, the prejudice she still harbors, the certainties she will not let go) I still believe in the Church’s potential. I believe in her because I believe we need her. I believe we need a place to console us in grief and celebrate with us in new births, a place where we can cry unabashedly and name the complexities of life. I believe we need a place where we talk about things that matter, a place that will challenge us to move outside of our selves and our little worlds, a place that will prod us towards our neighbor who thinks and believes differently. I believe we need a place where people of all ages can gather around commonly held rituals, a place where we can sing, and pray, and play the blues in the context of Good News. I believe we need a place where we can feel hope.
I believe, at her best, and by the grace of God, the Church can be that place. This is whom I have given my life to, because this I believe.