Monday, February 22, 2010

Changes in the air

Taking a moment to reflect on some interesting - and challenging - events out here in the slushy, mushy tundra of the Big Ten College Town in the Cornfields...

One of fun trips we allow ourselves is a trip to Indianapolis each year to see the AMA/FIM Supercross (indoor motorcycle dirt-track) races. Yes, I know, you'd never peg me for a motorcycle-racing guy - but it's a good time. The racing is the one "sport" I get enthused about, and it's something that Chris introduced me to that I really "get." The race is held at the reasonably-new Lucas Oil Stadium, downtown Indy, which is a really nice venue.

The racing has been particularly fun this year because the two "big-name" racers, James Stewart and Chad Reed, are both out with injuries. Without adding to the drama between these two, I would just say that the racing has been much more exciting without either of them - and it wouldn't bother me a bit if neither of them came back this season. A lot of younger racers have had a lot more chances to shine without them, and to be honest, it's much more exciting to me.

I could get into the other "dramas" - especially related to perennial bad-boy Jason Lawrence - but I put this kind of crap in the same category with People magazine and Fox News: "sound and fury, signifying nothing." The race was fun, with lots of switch-ups and battles going on.

The big stories, for us, came afterwards. Chris is a small-town guy, and had never seen homeless people as up-close as we did walking from the car to the stadium. Men and women, sleeping on the sidewalks under the railroad overpasses - it un-nerved him to see them that up-close. Chris had been less than happy about the way his week at work had gone - but he was a lot more grateful as we went home than he'd been in a while. Travel does open one's eyes...

I'd told Chris I wanted to stay overnight in Indy because I'd wanted to visit Jesus Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) on the east side of town. Their pastor, Jeff Miner, had written The Children Are Free: Re-examining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships, and had appeared on the Gay Christian Network's "GCN Radio" program. His book had been the first one to discuss the possibility that how I'd been reading the Bible regarding same-sex relationships might be off-base (long before I had a same-sex relationship, I should add), and I really wanted to see what JMCC was like.

So off we went - stopping at Hubbard & Cravens coffee-shop on Carrollton first. We got to the church, and were greeted by two people, welcomed, handed two "visitor bags," and pointed toward the refreshments and the sanctuary. Can you guess what happened next?


Absolutely nothing.

Now, I know - two gay men at an MCC church (made-up primarily of GLBT members) is not a rarity. But two people - regardless of gender or orientation - at a church carrying "visitor bags" should be a red-flag (or at least bright-orange) for a church to welcome the strangers in their midst. Yet not a single person welcomed us, introduced themselves, or acknowledged that we existed. We went through the service, and except for the prayers said over us by the person giving us communion (which I have always loved about the MCC), we remain untouched until the service end.

Pastor Miner was standing at the door at the end of the service, and I introduced myself and thanked him for The Children Are Free. When he was done greeting worshipers, he showed me the other resources JMCC had available. But other than the greeter and the pastor, not a single member of the church noted our presence.

I enjoyed the music (a blend of praise choruses and traditional hymns), and the sermon from their clergy intern. But the welcome at our home church (McKinley Presbyterian) 10 months ago has evidently spoiled us for life at other churches. We felt more welcome, and more joy at our presence, from McKinley in the first ten minutes we were there than we felt at this nearly-all-GLBT church during our whole visit. I'm glad we went (I got a couple great books from their resource area). But I don't think we'll be missing a Sunday "at home" to attend there again.

There were a couple of Taize' songs (which Chris recognized from McKinley) being sung that morning. I had the chance on the way home to explain more about Taize' and their tradition of meditative worship music, which Chris had been unfamiliar with before then. I have warm memories of Taize' singing, or our best approximation of it, from my "Friends of Faith" days in Kansas, and find it to be a great comfort to me.

It's funny, but having been (at one time) a big proponent of praise music, I've found some of the so-called "praise choruses" I've experienced lately to be quite empty, at times. Being a heretic, I find singing "You're WORTHY" repeatedly (OK, seemingly unendingly) to be one of the ultimate redundancies in the known universe. After all, folks, if God's not "worthy," we're pretty much screwed, aren't we?...

There's a lot more to talk about on that topic, but I won't digress much more for now.

I have been reflecting a lot about items of faith and recovery - about Lent and how twisted (or enabling) Lenten practices can be; about the supposed divide between spirituality and religion; about what makes "a church"; about calling and being called. Lots to write, lots to share. But for now, off to a meeting, dinner, and back to work, sadly. Peace for now.


David said...

Well, I'm sorry your experience was so unfriendly. Jesus MCC is my church. I make a point of welcoming guests I encounter, so I'm sorry our paths didn't cross on Sunday morning.


Anonymous said...

We had a guest speaker in my Human Sexuality class this morning who said she met her partner at MCC down in Indy... almost odd as it was to come across the name again in your post, I'm glad, as I had wanted to check it out but didn't have the chance to ask her the full name of after class.

Also, thanks again for the comment on my blog; the encouragement is so appreciated. :-)

BentonQuest said...

Nick said to be sure you let Pr. Jeff know what happened. It is info like this that is invaluable.

I also would like to suggest a blog to you:

You may find it interesting. Some of the theology may be a little suspect, but the guy makes some interesting points.

Peter said...

The upside is that you will value McKinley even more than you did before, I reckon. MCC doesn't really "walk the walk"--it only thinks it does, from what I read here.