I was sitting here this afternoon thinking I should write something for the end of the year.
Of course that is what everybody is doing. Looking back over all the stuff that happened during 2007. The year 2007 will be reviewed in print, in video and radio till we are just sick of it.
There will be plenty of “this was a horrible year” or “this was a great year” or “the best and worst stuff” written about. So I was stuck as to what to write about which would not be the same old stuff.
Then I remembered an old quote from a former Hall of Fame major league baseball pitcher by the name of Satchel Paige; “Never look behind you, cause something might be gaining on you.” Ain’t that the truth?
In addition our faith calls upon us because of the Christ to be forward looking. St. Paul writes,
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3:13-14 (The Message) )
This past year has been full of challenges; very difficult times and full of loss…but St. Paul’s words are so true for those of us who claim a relationship with God.
I might be a little too arrogant here, but I am looking forward to 2008 and the incredible good things that will happen!
The ministry which I am blessed to be apart of is on the edge of doing some things that most Pastors can only dream of. March 15, 2008 Gentle Spirit Christian Church will be 10 years old. Given our start and our journey of faith this is no small accomplishment.
I look forward to 2008 because I am the pastor of real life heroes. In a day when we lack for people we can call heroes, I am truly blessed.
I am the pastor of a church that has some of the most resilient and gutsy people on the planet. It takes great effort to break down the walls of tradition that is suffocating and more about morality and rules rather than relationship with and the grace of God.
On any given Sunday, there will be gay, straight men and women, bi, lesbian and transgender folks worshiping together. There will be white, black and Latino all worshiping together. It takes guts to see each other as a true child of God.
There will be Evangelical, Progressive, Moderate Christians, and followers of Jesus, Buddhists, and church questioning folks all worshiping together. It takes guts to allow for many paths to God.
It takes guts and resilience to move the worship time out of doors and never cancel a service because of the weather. Our service moved outdoors Labor Day weekend of 2006.
Worship took place regardless of 100-degree temperatures or a temperature in the 30’s with wind and rain. The congregation was always there with food for the picnic after they had worshipped and praised God.
It takes guts in this day and age to worship outside in a public city park where anybody could show up looking for God knows what. Anything from needing some travel money to some food to get through the day. There have been people showing up needing help finding shelter, or finding a way to get into recovery. Every one of those folks has been welcomed with open arms by each of the people in church that day. The people attending church that day have helped every one of those folks in some way. It did not matter if it was giving a few dollars, a ride, a hug, a smile, or the assurance of support for the need.
Yes, it takes guts to “walk the talk” and love rather then hate, support rather then condemn, embrace rather then shun, include rather than exclude. It takes a special kind of faith to give up the comforts of a building; the security of locked doors and is front and center in the community.
It takes guts to be in church where one’s pets are as important as the people.
Those worshipping in the park every Sunday give a new sense of affirmation to God’s people. An affirmation, which says the people are more important then buildings, committee’s and rules.
Those who worship each Sunday give a loud and visible witness that feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned is far more important then having a church building where the utility bills are 10 times more then the benevolence fund.
I look forward to 2008 because of the heroes God has brought to this ministry.
People have heard God’s call and they have answered. The wealth of talented and spiritually diverse people God has brought into our midst is astounding!
We already had an outstanding Deacon who had become a “jack of all trades” and a dedicated treasurer, but we have added an assistant pastor, a vicar of education, a church administrative assistant, prayer warriors, and a marketing professional. All of who give of their time, talents efforts without seeking a salary or fee.
We have a core group of people who with a simple phone call will help with housing, food, medical, recovery issues, mental health issues, jobs, legal matters, financial needs and transportation.
We have people who have simply opened their homes to those who needed a place to stay; no conditions to length of time, no expectations of being paid…just opened their home.
We have people whom week after week brought food for those who had none.
We have people whom week after week, have provided rides to doctors, grocery stores, hospitals, to jobs or back home.
We have people whom have volunteered to help people move, gave money to those in need with no expectation of every getting one dime back.
We have those who call the church office week after week to inquire about any special prayer concerns.
We have group of people who walk 3 miles to church each and every Sunday regardless of weather.
We have a group of people who can testify to the healing power of God almost daily.
These folks are all heroes because in a world where recognition, wealth, power and control mean everything, it means nothing to them. Except for here most of you will never hear of them in the media or in the power places of the community.
I thank God for these faithful people of God:
Rev. Jarrod Cochran and Erin
Kim and Sharon Dugan
Vicar Alyce Keener
Ann Marie Knittel
Estelle LeClaire and Erin
Maura NiConnell (Spike)
Rev. Judy McVey
Deacon Bob Shaw
Father Warren Taylor
Zan Thornton and Elizabeth
Rev. Candace Chellew
Rev. Guy Kent
Rev. James Brewer-Calvert
Yes, I am more then just a little excited and looking forward to 2008. I cannot wait to see and experience the new heroics these people will do by the power of God!
Yes to 2008: bring it on!
Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church and Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He was called to Atlanta in 1994 to pastor All Saints MCC. Five years later he founded Gentle Spirit Christian Church. He lives in Decatur with his husband Bill, who he met in 1982 while living and working in Ohio and legally married in 2015.