Category Archives: Pastor’s Corner

Let’s Put Christ Back in ‘Christian'

As a longtime transgender ally, this time of year hits a bit differently for me than it does for most. Due to the timing of Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is always a few days before Thanksgiving, I inevitably go into Advent thinking a lot about the lack of progress in our society on the fundamental challenges faced by transgender people.

I realize this is likely to date me, because I'm probably coming across as tone-deaf to all the forward progress we've made on things such as preferred pronouns and a slightly lessened emphasis on traditional binary notions of gender.

But as the pastor of an LGBTQ+ affirming urban church with a longstanding ministry to the homeless, the intersectionality that jumps out to me in sharp relief is the one between society's marginalization of transgender people and of the homeless.

The astute among us are likely to recognize that many transgender people flirt with homelessness, and are even likely to recognize why: In a society where your housing is tied to your economic worth, an economy that makes very few seats on the bus for transgender workers is likely to see a lot of transgender homelessness.

Years ago it used to set my teeth on edge listening to the president of one of our fancier (gentrified) neighborhood associations speak of "the transgender prostitutes" walking the streets of her neighborhood; I knew that in her mind she not only couldn't separate those two concepts, but she also couldn't appreciate the forces that brought them together.

But that's not all: In my fair city's virtual map of marginalizations, there are a couple more nearby intersections worth pointing out: The fact that state-sanctioned identification (a key that unlocks doors to employment and other societal goods) is held out as a privilege, not a right — and the fact that the overwhelming majority of LGBTQ+ homeless youth are people of color.

In reflecting on all these things, as I often do this time of year, I realized that I'd actually written about them before — four years ago, to be exact. And in re-reading what I'd written, I had the sinking realization that the only thing that had changed about this tapestry of marginalization were the headlines.

Here are two from just one news cycle:

An underage white kid could kill two people and wound another and not have even a modicum of legal responsibility laid at his feet.

A lawyer stood in open court and bemoaned the presence of black pastors supporting the family of an unarmed young black man who was gunned down in broad daylight under the “white privilege” excuse of a citizen’s arrest!

I think people are tired of seeing evidence all around them that their fellow humans continue to act in such a short-sighted and self-absorbed fashion when confronted with situations, where our instruction from God is, I believe, rather clear: Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.

Here in Atlanta, just in time for Christmas, we’re ignoring that instruction as it concerns our homeless brothers and sisters. Here in Atlanta, we live in a city where the establishment fought shamelessly for the better part of a decade to shut down the city’s largest homeless shelter — which just happened to be situated on some seriously prime real estate.

We are 4 years passed the closing of the shelter and the building still sits empty and the parking lots around are continuing to be dump sites for all kinds of crap.

The sad truth is, there was no plan made during that decade-long fight to account for how the 700-800 people the Peachtree-Pine homeless shelter was serving daily might survive with some semblance of human dignity. Four years later, there is still no plan. In fact instead of meeting the “needs” of it’s citizens, the counties and cities continue to offer patchwork “fixes” that keep a politician in office,

Did I mention that every other shelter in town is already full? Did I mention that as fast as a tent city pops up under an underpass it is quickly cleared out…talk about the city burying its head in the sand!

Why are there tent cities popping up all over the place? Because it is safer there than to go to a shelter and getting your possessions stolen or being  beaten up and abused.

This does not deal with another horrific issue:  if a mom is homeless and her sons are twelve years old or older, they will be separated from one another to acquire shelter - and you thought it was bad on the border; welcome to Atlanta Metro.

But instead of focusing on how to get homeless people off the streets as winter approaches, your local government has determined that the best thing they can do for the homeless right now is to offer to open emergency shelters when it gets into the 30’s.

Yup. Just for your information, hypothermia begins with extended outside exposure of 50 degrees, and the lower the temperature, the faster it occurs. I umpire softball games that are in the 40’s and for those 2 hours I am heavily layered! Are you cold yet?

Did I mention there is not one, not one emergency cold shelter in DeKalb County?

The arrogance of the city and the county continues with a list of 10 organizations that they recommend should be the real focus of our energy - we who so inadequately seek to serve the homeless. And let me be clear: I am not disparaging the groups themselves — which are for the most part reputable, worthy, and doing good in the community. Rather, I’m pointing out the city’s and county’s sleight of hand in making it seem that these 10 points of light are adequately filling the gap in homeless services left wide open by the closing of Peachtree-Pine and a lack of any plans to seriously address the issue of being homeless.

Here’s why:

  • Most of these organizations close by 5pm. There are a couple that are open until 8:45pm and one that is open 24 hours — but this last one serves homeless youth only.
  • There are no purely family shelters.
  • None of them provides ongoing meals.
  • These organizations are spread out all over the city… making it extremely difficult for their clientele to access the services they do provide.
  • Many organizations have a cutoff as to how many clients they can service at a time. People can find themselves waiting in long lines for hours or more and still not make the cut.
  • None of these organizations is willing to work with transgender folks.
  • Many of these organizations require a tuberculosis test before one can get housing or services.
  • COVID-19 protocols have made things extremely difficult.

So please tell me how, in all that is holy, are these people who are without resources or transportation, who are hungry, who can also be dealing with addiction or mental illness or disability — how are they supposed to access what the county and city blithely refer to as a continuum of care? How long should they wait? How far should they walk? And let’s be honest: Whose way should they stay out of?

For those of you who are waiting for the LGBTQI part of this...Too many young people coming out find themselves on the streets, homeless.  Why? "Because they are less than" as told to us by conservative Christian theology.

From November 2020 to November 2021, 54 Trans people were murdered, many of them homeless or on the edge of being homeless. Why? "Because they are less than" as told to us by conservative Christian theology.

And I’m so not done here.

It might not be illegal to be gay or Transgender, but they become criminals because of the criminalization of homelessness. Here’s how it starts: In the state of Georgia, you cannot get a driver’s license or state ID without a birth certificate, Social Security card, and two pieces of mail sent to your residence.

Yes, you read that correctly: Two pieces of mail to your residence. Good luck, homeless people!

Plus, it doesn’t take longer than a couple of weeks for a newly homeless person to have lost whatever they might have been carrying - all this documentation - to a beat cop who confiscated it, a fellow traveler who stole it — or simply to “the shuffle” of constantly being on the move and eventually losing track of almost anything.

The last time I went to renew my driver’s license, I had to mail $50 to New Jersey to get my birth certificate. How many homeless people can manage that?

In addition, the next step in the criminalization of homelessness is that once you’ve pretty much lost the ability to prove who you are, you’re eventually going to find yourself arrested for loitering, trespassing, shoplifting, vagrancy, public urination, public intoxication, indecent exposure, or any number of other petty crimes that happen along the way when you’re just trying to survive on the streets.

The result is that the city’s jails double as unofficial homeless shelters. So, one of the badges that goes along with being homeless is the Unemployability badge, because you now have a criminal record thanks to your inability to find a place to live, stay out of the way, prove who you are, or pay a bond or a fine.

And of course, the only thing the average homeless person is guilty of is generally some sort of addiction, mental health issues, or a disability of some kind. They end up on the streets because they can’t get the help they need.

I’ve been saying for the better part of 20 years, if we are going to solve these challenges, then we need to stop trying to fix them and simply meet the need. Jesus never once offed to fix anything, but rather simply met the need as presented.

To meet the need three things, must happen at one time: Full access to drug rehabilitation, full access to good mental health care, and employers offering to pay a livable wage. A fourth thing probably needs to happen in this ridiculous economy: “rent controls”. Don’t want rent controls? Then offer livable rents.

I suppose there is another full essay on what the difference is between “fixing” someone and “meeting the need” of someone. However, it must suffice for now to do what follows that can only happen from the standpoint of meeting the need.

This Christmas, could we try to take seriously what our faith teaches?

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (James 3:17-18)

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love. And don’t take yourself too seriously — take God seriously. (Micah 6:8)

When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Humanity will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Enter, you who are blessed by my God! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry, and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.” (
Matthew 25:31-40)

To solve this challenge, we as people of faith need to start practicing what we say we believe. We need to get to the root of what causes homelessness and do as our scripture teaches us.

These folk are not numbers or statistics or political fixes to gather votes. They are God’s children, and we will answer for what we do for and with these precious creations of God.

So tonight, tomorrow morning and in the days ahead, let us set aside the soundbite-friendly distractions of sideshows such as “putting Christ back in Christmas” and instead fight for something that has the potential for lasting impact.

Let’s put Christ back into what it means to be Christian.

In Memoriam: The Saints of GSCC

Prayers for those Saints of GSCC who have passed our way

In Sorrow We Remember

In sorrow we remember the loved ones we have lost.
As love bestows its blessings, it also brings a cost.
The joy we felt so deeply is now the deepest pain.
In sorrow we remember and say their names again.
In sorrow we remember our neighbors who are gone.
However well we knew them, our thoughts of them live on.
Their lives and ours were tangled, however loose the skein.
In sorrow we remember and say their names again.
Oh, may our hearts be opened to everything we feel.
Our sadness and our wonder we hold as true and real.
In faith and trust we honor the power of our grief.
In sorrow we remember a love beyond belief.

(Amanda UK, Copyright 2021)

The Saints of GSCC

Charles Harris
Wolf Thomas
William Butler
Corey Hoblit
Father Warren Taylor
James Langston
Caroline Ray
Stanley Armstrong
Nancy VanDyke
Ricky Lee Wilson
Robbin Brown
Calvin Smith

Lent 2021 Pastoral Call to Repent, Reflect and Resolve to Act

Our Lenten Journey

Lent is the period of 40 days that precedes Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, we as followers of Jesus replicate his sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.

We have taught in this church to use this time to repent (turn back to God), reflect about our individual relationships with God and resolve to act on the discoveries made in that time of repentance and reflection.

In past years I have tried to give a specific theme or topic for us to concentrate on during those 40 days. However, this year the discernment is simply to encourage you during the 40 days of Lent in your own way and time each day to set aside 20 minutes daily to read scripture, pray, repent and reflect on your relationship with God.

This last year has been one of grief, trauma, and crisis. Simply trying to get through the year has been so stressful as to cause many us to lose touch with our Creator or at least to certainly feel a great distance there — and also to find our hope shattered and our grief over the loss of life and relationships overwhelming.

I dare say we need these next 40 days to find once again our feet upon solid ground, our moral compass reset and our faith restored.

When we as a congregation have prayed and were open to the Spirit of God it has led to several exciting miracles over the last 15 years, including:

1. Going into the park to have morning services.
2. Finding a home for our office and a partner in ministry with First Christian Church of Decatur.
3. Trusting God for the finances to keep going.
4. Being open to what God would send to us — and despite COVID-19, rather than lose ministry, we have gained followers from all over the world.
5. Continuing the efforts to meet the “needs” of the community rather than trying to “fix” the community.
6. Preparing and distributing Hygiene Kits — more than 10,000 at last count.
7. Reformatting our worship time to be more inclusive and welcoming, having successfully taught all who were part of this ministry to “own their faith rather than rent it”!
8. Developing an incredible network in the community that allows us to meet the needs of those who connect with us.
9. Continuing to work on becoming a community fellowship rather than an institutional church.
10. Continuing even with great fear and trepidation, but rock solid faith, to publish Whosoever.org.

All these things have happened by God’s grace. God has answered clearly and has been by our side in a journey which has caused us to become literally the “Church without Walls.” We have become a group of faith people who emphasize having a relationship and love for God and each other (as opposed to stressing doctrine and rules).

Throughout these past 22 years we have continued to pray for our church and its direction… How to better do the work God has laid out for us.

We have had significant growth in outreach to the community and to our folks. The miracle stories seem to happen at a dizzying pace. We will celebrate our 23rd anniversary on March 15th and as we celebrate our past and present, we will look to our future.

As God’s Spirit once again calls for us to spend a time of “Fasting and Prayer” from sundown Good Friday to Easter Sunrise, I encourage all of you consider joining with me at the park on Holy Saturday, April 3rd, to pray and fast. I will have masks and make sure we are socially distant. Here are complete instructions for prayerful fasting.

Please consider joining me on Holy Saturday in person or via Facebook live, as I will also attempt to make this a Facebook Live event — no promises as to the quality, but I will do my best.

It is only with your support that we have become a church that is affirming, inclusive and progressive in our ministry and it is only with your help and prayer that it can continue.

The daily readings we will be following for the Lenten season are from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B), a service of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

If you have a signed “Covenant” with the church I appeal to you to participate in this sacred and holy time of reflection and seeking God’s direction for this fellowship.

Our Prayerful Church Fast

Individually we will be encouraging you all to focus on:
1) What can each of us do to continue the work of this church?
2) What can each of us do to support the vision and mission of GSCC?
3) What do we need to do as individuals to proclaim and act on our core beliefs.
4) Pray for an end to COVID-19 and a return to what feels more normal.
5) Consider a spiritual journey of discovery that answers the question: Am I a doers or follower?
Collectively we will be praying and seeking God’s guidance in the following areas:
1) Our expanding ministry on the Internet – how much should we take advantage of?
2) How can we continue our Hygiene Kit ministry?
3) Grant research – as we seek to minister to the homeless and others, we are in pursuit of grants to help us continue serving those in need. We seek prayer here for guidance from God as to the direction and which grants to go for.
4) What does the “Church Without Walls” look like? Feel like? Act like?

In times of searching, we have examples in the Bible of others calling for prayer and fasting to set themselves aside for God and to determine God’s leading. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying. Jesus set himself aside to better/more clearly hear God speak and direct Jesus in all that he needed to do. We are no different in this church. We too seek God’s direction and wisdom to clearly speak to us.

Easter weekend we put ourselves aside and concentrate on God, to allow God to speak with each of us and to all of us as a church.

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

Lent Will Begin February 17th

February 17 Marks the Beginning of the Season of Lent.

Lent Incorporates 40 Days for Repentance and Preparation for Easter.

The Ashes used to mark the shape of the cross upon our foreheads come from burned palms that were blessed and lifted during previous Palm Sunday services.

Ash Wednesday Service
Ashes & Liturgical Prayers for At-Home Intinction Will Be Mailed to Anyone Who Requests Them.

To request Ashes be mailed directly to you please send your name and mailing address to us by February 6, 2021.

A shared Ash Wednesday Service Liturgy, including the Rite of Ashes and Holy Communion, from First Christian Church of Decatur and Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta to be available all day on February 17 via Facebook and YouTube.

Lent 2020 Pastoral Call to Repent, Reflect and Resolve to Act

Our Lenten Journey

Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.

We have taught to use this time to repent (turn back to God), reflect about our individual relationship with God and resolve to act on the discoveries made in that time of repentance and reflection.

In past years I have tried to give a specific theme or topic for us to concentrate on during those 40 days. However, this year the discernment is to simply encourage you during the 40 days of Lent in your own way and time each day to set aside 20 minutes each day to read scripture, pray, repent (turn back to God), and reflect on your relationship with God.

Here are instructions for fasting, and here are the daily readings, worship schedule and worship topics for the season.

Lent culminates on Good Friday, as we are called to fast from Friday sundown til Easter Sunrise.

You may be asking - why do we encourage an annual fast at our church? The first time we did it was 13 years ago. We were experiencing many challenges and wondered what direction our ministry/church should take. We were in debt and we knew we were not welcome anymore at the church we were at. We prayed and were led to several answers over the last 13 years:

1. Go into the park and have morning services
2. Look for another place to have our church office and successfully accomplishing that.
3. Trust God for the finances to keep going.
4. Be open to what God would send to us
5. Began the effort to meet the “needs” of the community rather than try and “fix” the community.
6. We began preparing and distributing Hygiene Kits (more than 9,000 completed Kits in 6 years).
7. Reformatted our worship time to be more inclusive and welcoming.
8. Developed an incredible network in the Community that allows us to meet the needs of those who connect with us.
9. Working on becoming a Community Fellowship rather than an institutional Church.
10. Stepped forward  with fear and trepidation but rock solid faith and re-launch “Whosover Webzine.”

All these things have happened by God’s grace. So we spend the day on personal prayer and fasting encouraging all to seek God’s direction in their lives.

God has answered clearly and has been by our side in a journey which caused us to become the “Church without Walls”. We have become a group of faith people which stresses a relationship and love for God and each other (as opposed to stressing doctrine and rules).

Throughout these past 13 years we have continued to pray for our church and its direction...how to better do the work God has laid out for us.

We have had significant growth in outreach to the community and to our folks. The miracle stories seem to happen at a dizzying pace. We will celebrate our 22nd anniversary on March 15th and as we celebrate our past and present, we will look to our future.

As, God's Spirit once again calls for us to spend a day of "Fasting and Prayer". I encourage all of you consider joining with Alyce and myself at the park on April 11th to pray and fast. It is only with your support that we have become a church that is affirming, inclusive and progressive in our ministry and it is only with your help and prayer that it can continue. Please consider joining us (either in person at a location of your choosing or with us at the park).

Here are the details of our time of prayer and fasting: If you have small children don't let that stop you from participating, let us know you intend to be there and we will get child care for the main part of the fast and prayer on Saturday. If you have a signed "Covenant" with the church I appeal to you to participate in this sacred and holy time of reflection and seeking God's direction for this fellowship.

Church Fast

Individually we will be encouraging you all to focus on:
1) What can each of us do to continue the work of this church?
2) What can each of us do to support the vision and mission of GSCC?
3) What do we did to do as individuals to proclaim and act on our core beliefs.
4) Am I a doers or follower?

Collectively we will be praying and seeking God’s guidance in the following areas:
1) Our expanding ministry on the Internet – how much should we take advantage of?
2) How can we continue our Hygiene Kit ministry?
3) Grant research – as we seek to minister to the homeless and others, we are in pursuit of grants to help us continue serving those in need. We seek prayer here for guidance from God as to the direction and which grants to go for.
4) What does the “Church Without Walls” look like? Feel like? Act like?

In times of searching we have examples in the Bible of others calling for prayer and fasting to set themselves aside for God and to determine God’s leading. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying. Jesus set himself aside to better/more clearly hear God speak and direct Jesus in all that he needed to do. We are no different in this church. We too seek God’s direction and wisdom to clearly speak to us.

Easter weekend we put ourselves aside and concentrate on God, to allow God to speak with each of us and to all of us as a church.

Saturday events:
9:00 – 9:45 am: Praising God in Song – Centering ourselves and focusing on God
9:45 – 10:00 am: Direction for individual prayer time
10:00 – 11:00 am: Individual prayer/meditation – concentrating on your needs
11:00 – 11:30 am: Time of sharing over juice/water – a type of break
11:30 – noon: Presentation of prayer items about church – details so that we all can pray about our church issues
Noon – 12:30 pm: Individual Prayer for the church
12:30 – 1:00 pm: Brainstorm on the church questions– sharing how God spoke to you
1:00 – 1:15 pm: Time of sharing over juice/ water – a type of break
1:15pm – 1:30 pm: Group Prayer time
1:30 – 2:00 pm: Sharing

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

Advent 2019 Theme: ’Stages of Love'

The Genesis of Advent

Starting in about the 9th century in the Western Church, the season of Advent has been celebrated as a period of preparation for the birth of our Lord and the beginning of the ecclesiastical year (Church year).

In the early church words Advent, Epiphany, and Nativity were used interchangeably to denote the “feast of the Nativity.” Advent services first appeared in the 6th century in the church of Gaul. Epiphany was observed as a baptismal festival and the period preceding it was utilized as a period of preparation for baptism, much like the season of Lent. So Advent originated as a type of “little Lent.” From France the observance spread to England in the 7th and 8th centuries. In the 9th century, Advent was finally incorporated into the Roman Rite.

The Meaning of Advent

The word “Advent” means literally, “to come to.” It is a special season when we celebrate the bold claim that the Lord of the Universe has come among us in human form through Jesus the Christ. In him we have Immanuel, God with us. Not only do we celebrate that God has come to the world in human form from Galilee but also that God is come as a spiritual reality and will come again in triumph at the close of the age.

There is another sense to the definition of Advent, “to come to.” Since God has, is and will come to us, therefore we need “to come to.” Our task as people in full relationship with God is to become fully awake not only to the importance of indwelling but also to the many immersions of Christ in our lives. None of us is fully conscious of God’s presence; we need to come to, to wake up, and be vigilant for the visits of God within history and at the end of time when God’s realm is fully realized.

The Mood of Advent

If God is coming to us and we truly believe that to be true, our mood will be one of excitement, anticipation, and joyful preparation. Mood is conveyed through color and light. As the awareness of the celebrative nature of Advent has grown, many congregations have substituted blue for the older tradition of purple, as we have done in our church. The brighter color of blue, the color of infinite sky, conveys better the bright hope of change and eternal life in the Christ than the more somber and sacrificial purple.

The Message of Advent

As we look at God’s word, we need to understand how the Christ (as the word of God) comes to humankind now and how we can receive and carry the Christ’s presence today. This starts with our Love… the guides for which can be found all throughout scripture. We are calling the next four weeks the Advent Stages of Love — the offering of quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation.  The task then becomes to take this journey over the next 4 weeks to come into a full consciousness with God, who comes to us in Jesus the Christ and these stages of God’s love.

Spirit Day

Spirit Day is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Pledging to "go purple" on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends — to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.

Why Do We Continue To Celebrate Gay Pride?

So why do we continue to celebrate Gay Pride? It is for actual equality. Here's why:

  • LGBT people can still be fired or denied housing or public accommodations for no other reason than the simple fact of who we are in just about as many states as same-gender couples can now get legally married.
  • Transgender people worldwide are regularly shot, stabbed, beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured, strangled, hanged or stoned - generally to death - simply for being who they are. It's why the single biggest transgender-focused event in any community is a day of remembrance to honor those who have suffered in the last 365 days.
  • About 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBT. LGB youth are also 4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers - and this is in a context where suicide is already the second leading cause of death among young people age 10-24.

And, this is to say nothing of adoption rights, wage gaps, transgender underemployment, and unemployment... you get the picture.

My point being that, while it has been thrilling to see same-gender love advance from second-class status in America, it's important for us - and for our allies and observers - to understand that the fight for marriage equality in many ways happened on its own timetable thanks to the courts. However,  the fight and struggle are not over. There are people out there who want us to be quiet, sit-down and go back to our closets. As long as that is the case, each year at this time we will stand with Pride, Courage and the Love of God in our hearts.

Most importantly let us not forget these powerful words of scripture: Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: "Teacher, which command in God's Law is the most important?"
Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence." This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: "Love others as well as you love yourself." These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them.

Holy Week 2019 Pastoral Call to Fast and Pray

As we travel in our Lenten journey this year, our church once again encourages and will engage in an annual period of fasting and prayer from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. We started this practice 15 years ago, and for the past seven years we have emphasized making this special time be about becoming more attuned than ever to the work God would have us do as individuals and as a church.

In that time, we have focused our prayers on our church and its direction -- on how to better do the work God has laid out for us. We have had significant growth in outreach to the community and to God's people. The miracle stories seem to happen at a dizzying pace. With more than 20 years of history as a congregation, we celebrate our past and present -- and we prayerfully look to our future.

It is only with your support that we have become a church that is affirming, inclusive and progressive in our ministry, and it is only with your help and prayer that it can continue.

The pastoral staff and I have been moved by God's spirit to again call for this time of fasting and prayer. I hope that you will consider joining us in this spiritual practice -- and in particular, to join me in Candler Park, near picnic pavilion 2, on Holy Saturday, April 20th between 10am and 2pm, to pray together and also to pray for those who are joining us in person or in spirit.

Here are the details of our time of fasting and prayer:

  • Our fast begins on Good Friday at the conclusion of the 7pm service at the foot of the Cross on the lawn of First Christian Church of Decatur.
  • Our theme this year is "Taking Our Inventory".
  • On Holy Saturday in Candler Park, I will lead us through a day of prayer. If you have a signed covenant with our church, I appeal to you especially to participate in this sacred and holy time of reflection and of seeking God's direction for this fellowship. (If you have small children, don't let that stop you from participating; let us know you intend to be there and we can discuss arrangements for child care.)

For this year's meditation, here are some questions I encourage you to focus on:

  • How does this year's meditation translate for you in the life of Gentle Spirit Christian Church? What kinds of spiritual inventory have you pursued?
  • What can each of us do to witness a spiritual inventory through our vision and mission?
  • What do we need to do as individuals to continue to take a spiritual inventory?
  • Indeed, what does a spiritual inventory actually look like?

Easter is a special opportunity for us to set ourselves aside and focus on God, to allow God to speak to each of us individually and to all of us as a church. I hope you'll join us in this spiritual practice beginning at with our Good Friday service and concluding with our Easter (Resurrection Sunday) Sunrise Service in Candler Park, picnic Pavilion 2.

In the meantime, I hope you'll find this year's Lenten readings useful in your spiritual practice.

God bless,
Pastor Paul

"If I Tell My Church They Will Say I'm A Sinner"

I've been questioning my sexuality. I think I'm bisexual but I'm not sure. But I'm scared if I tell my friends they will not like me anymore and if I tell my church they will say I'm a sinner. Do you have anything to help?

Dear Gen Renaud,

It seems your concerns appear to involve a lot of fear of the unknown. You fear that if you pursue the life of your sexual orientation will you end up being rejected by your friends and your church will judge you as a person worthy of hell.

I have come to recognize that your fears and concerns are rooted in the way you were taught to view God. So in essence, the only way that you will be able to get past those fears is to change the way you view God. So let's see if we can help with that.

A book written by Bruce Bawer called "Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity" helps us to understand the real source of our fears when it comes to sexuality. The source of this fear is the difference between an attitude of love and an attitude of law. On page 5 of this book Mr. Bawer states:

Simply stated, conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine, and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love, spiritual experience and... the priesthood of all believers. If conservative Christians emphasize the Great Commission -- the resurrected Christ's injunction, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, "go to all the nations and make them my disciples" -- liberal Christians place more emphasis on the Great Commandment, which in Luke's Gospel reads as follows: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

What these few words means is we have a choice as to whether we see God as a strict authoritarian who demands that all come to God in a specify way or we see God as a loving Creator who desires that all would come to God and would treat each other accordingly.

You seem to be focused on the point of view that is based on the law and authority figures who have decided they speak on behalf of God.

Yes, you can make a choice as to how you shall view God and who you will choose to believe.

However, I must tell you that to believe God would create something with free will and then ultimately destroy that creation because it didn't follow the law is rubbish.

Why did Jesus when asked, state that the Greatest Commandment was to love God and to love your Neighbor? He never said in order to be okay with God and not go to hell you must obey the law of the church (synagogue), rather he spent all of his ministry telling folks to love God and giving them example after example of how they could show and could live that love. The women caught in adultery, the raising of Lazarus, the blind person healed, the Roman Centurion slave healed, the women with the issue of blood healed.

Read Jesus' words:

When you have done this to the least of my brothers or sisters you have done this to me. (Matthew 25:40)

Be not be judges of others, and you will not be judged. For as you have been judging, so you will be judged, and with your measure will it be measured to you. And why do you take note of the grain of dust in your brother's eye, but take no note of the bit of wood which is in your eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)

Then Jesus said to the people and to his disciples: "The scribes and the Pharisees have the authority of Moses; All things, then, which they give you orders to do, these do and keep: but do not take their works as your example, for they say and do not. They make hard laws and put great weights on men's backs; but they themselves will not put a finger to them." (Matthew 23:1-4)

But a curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! because you are shutting the kingdom of heaven against men: for you do not go in yourselves, and those who are going in, you keep back. A curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! for you go about land and sea to get one disciple and, having him, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. A curse is on you, blind guides, who say, Whoever takes an oath by the Temple, it is nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gold of the Temple, he is responsible. You foolish ones and blind: which is greater, the gold, or the Temple which makes the gold holy? (Matthew 23:13-17)

Yes, my child of God you can chose to live in fear by the law, authority and or judgements of those around you or you can choose to live by the words of Jesus and his examples.

If your church decides to call you a sinner then know there are other churches you can belong to which teach about a loving God. I challenge you to read the words of Jesus and see that all fear has been cast out and in its place given that of perfect love.

God Bless,
Pastor Paul