I've been going to Grace DC for the 3 and a half years (Hold. The. Phone. What!?) that I've been in DC. Figuring out where to go to church was sort of like figuring out my scene here, so to speak. Not that I live and bleed church life (does that sound weird? live and bleed...) but being in community with people who believe what you believe and at least "get" you on one level, actually the deepest level, is a nice thing. And something to run after. And hold tight to your heart. [He carries the lambs in his arms and holds them close to his heart. Isaiah 40:11].
Grace is a part of the same denomination that I grew up in, so it's not totally surprising that I ended up there. I know what you're thinking: she's scared to break the mold and go to a......gasp, Methodist church! Oh hush. I did church hop around town during my first couple of months here. Girlfriend (or boyfriend), it doesn't matter where you go, as long as the Gospel is preached. Preach it, preacher.
Michael moved to DC in May of 2011, right before we got married, and I told him that if he didn't feel like Grace was the place for him, I would church shop with him. But we never did. Michael wound his heart around that church the same way I did.
There are so many reasons, and here are a few, for why I love my church:
1) We eat together -- I mean, Jesus ate. And we eat. We break bread together. We take communion together every Sunday. Michael always follows me in the Communion line as we make our way toward the front of the sanctuary each week. I can feel his eyes on my back as I tear my piece of bread from the loaf. You see, I have a slight problem. It's called Lacking-Finesse-when-Tearing-a-Piece-of-Bread syndrome. But hey, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled...so I'm taking my large chunk of bread, thank you very much. When we return to our seat, Michael shows me his little, bite-sized piece, and I show him my roll (just kidding.) In all seriousness, taking communion each week is something that grounds me, renews me, and is a reminder of what a hellacious woman I am who is in desperate need of her Savior. (Sounds strong? Ask my husband).
We also share meals and snacks and coffee, and in general, there is a lot of food love in our midst at church.
|Funfetti cookies made by yours truly for a post-church coffee hour last week. They are the jam!|
2) We also hang out together. We meet in Community Groups throughout the city to eat dinner (we eat...reiteration of point #1), fellowship, pray, discuss the sermon, learn from one another, and care for each other. We go through life's mishaps together, and there are a LOT of mishaps. It is the bomb.com to get to know specific and individual people in your CG. I mean, we are all members of one body, right? (Romans 12:5). One body, many parts. And the people in my CG are living examples of those parts. Everyone is so unique and so very different from each other. I probably wouldn't have met some of my dearest friends in DC if it wasn't for CG, but I am so glad that I have!
3) We get out into the city and love on those around us. DISCLAIMER: This doesn't come naturally to me. I feel way more comfortable in my little bubble of life with the people and things around me that I choose to have around. But to live like that wouldn't be taking hold of the life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:19). Together, we get into the messiness of DC that a lot of us pretend isn't there. I can speak to what I know -- cooking and eating dinner with the men at St. Lukes (a homeless shelter near where my CG meets) started as something that I grudgingly did out of obligation. It has since turned into something that brings me face first with the reality of our crazy world, that brings a lot of laughter around the dinner table, that reminds me that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, and that we are ALL like the foolish man who would build his house on sinking sand if not for God's grace in giving us a rock solid foundation.
4) We care for each others' babies -- not that I have one. But working in the nursery sure is fun. A few weeks ago, Michael and I had nursery duty at church. We were with the infants (which I LOVE!) and a mom just plopped her baby girl in Michael's arms, said "Sorry!" because the baby already had her bottom lip popped out and was ready to scream, and then scuttled from the room. Michael was left with an adorable, albeit very upset, little girl in his arms. It was the first time I had ever seen him hold a baby and it was maybe, perhaps, yes, definitely the cutest thing I have ever seen.
The kids at church are amazing. They get to sit with their parents for the first part of the service before being dismissed to Sunday school. When that happens, you would be amazed at how loud such lightweight people can be when running down the sanctuary, pig tails and shoe laces in tow. We are supposed to be praying with our pastor Glenn as he says a prayer for the kids and their Sunday School teachers, but I have a hard time keeping my eyes closed when those kids come pounding forward. They are so free and happy!
5) The sound system never works -- Ok, "never" is an exaggeration, but I meeeean, not by much. Every time a microphone needs to be turned on, it take about 7 seconds of silence and testing and looking up at the sound guy at the back of the church before it works. This little routine may bother some people... kind of like "holy smokes, why on earth can't they get it right for once," but I really like it when this happens. We are just human. And sometimes the sound doesn't work. And we have to wait for it to work. And it's not the sound guy's fault, and it's not the microphone's fault. And we just get to sit and relish the brokeness of our things together.
6) We celebrate the bodies in our midst -- Quite literally, we do this. First of all, when a couple gets married, at the end of the service the minister will announce that we have a marriage hoist. A MARRIAGE HOIST! OH! YIPPEE!! That is what I think, and then I start squirming in my seat and craning my neck to see who it is. The newlyweds stand up, and the whole church claps and whistles as the husband beams at his blushing wife. It is just precious.
And then... and then. On occasion, the best thing in the whole world happens. If I'm craning my neck for a marriage hoist, then Michael is literally holding me down in the pew when the best thing happens: We celebrate a new body. A brand new, little squirt of flesh that is warm and squirmy and doughy and just beautiful. Let me paint you a picture. Remember the Lion King when Rafiki hoists Simba up high for the whole kingdom to see? Wait, better yet, I should just show you exactly what I mean:
The Simba-hoist happens at church!
(I googled these words exactly: "The Lion King Simba Rafiki hoist" - and a link to this picture came up from Shannon's blog. This is Shannon's husband and their adorable baby boy as he was hoisted at Grace!)
We're not planning on having a baby anytime soon, but man oh man, it sure would be the bees knees to have my bundle of joy Simba-hoisted at church. Maybe one day...
7) We meet in Chinatown. Grace is right in the middle of downtown. The city is all around us, within us, coming in from the outside, going out from the inside. I really love that about Grace. Cities are the cultural, intellectual, and political hubs where ideas and movements and culture is shaped, and the church is right there in the midst of it. Not above it all with a "holier than thou" kind of approach - Lord knows that just isn't the way it works - but right in the thick of it. Hunkered down and hanging on. Knowing that we are useless until God makes us useful. Can I get an Amen?
I love my church. But, there is no perfect church. So stop looking for it. Pick one and go! And invest your time and your heart and your money there. We have a God-shaped hole in our hearts and that means that nothing, nothing at all can fill that hole except for God. And being in a church community is a bangerang place to start.