Monday, April 16, 2007

A Brief Word from Blythe, California

Am on my way back to Costa Mesa after a weekend in Tucson at Casas Adobes Church, which is a fascinating megachurch in the middle of multiple transitions. They are transitioning primary leaders. They are transitioning their worship style. They are transitioning all their program. Staff are being transitioned as some are laid off or retire. It's just a place in complete flux.

Spending time at the Southern Baptist Casas Adobes and the Episcopalian All Saints all within days of one another was an experience. At one place the congregation is grappling with the pain that comes with living an individual life, while at the other there is grappling with the pain that comes with living in unjust systems. Thus at Casas the main function of the church is to get people into something called Adult Bible Fellowships (which are essentially Sunday Schools that meet throughout the worship services on Sunday morning) while the main function at All Saints is to get people in some sort of activist ministry. Whether it be environmental justice, or alleviating the plight of migratory farm workers, or volunteering in a free medical clinic, All Saints wants you to find your passion and turn you loose. This is simplified explanation, of course. There are hundreds of ministries going at Casas right now (one lady I met started one geared toward reaching out to young mothers who have just moved to the community) and they do a lot of mission work in their community, the immediate far west, and in Mexico. But you can feel the difference in emphasis. It's palpable.

What there is no difference in, however, is the passion that the people in both congregations feel for their worshiping community. I think with all the flux that maybe Casas is feeling some strain right now (as probably did All Saints 12 years ago when they made the shift in Rectors) but in both cases there was a sense of belief in the church's mission and ministry. A devotion to the idea that the church attended makes the the world a better place. And that sense that everyone, from the lead pastor to staff to laity, all believe that they are part of something bigger and more important than themselves, creates an attitude of mutual humility. If people treat one another in humility, then grace, even when there are differences, is what people extend to one another by default. Grace that results, I think, in mutual love and admiration, as well as an ongoing challenge that people demand the best out themselves as they seek to worship the Lord.

I don't know, exactly, what Jesus envisioned when we talked about the need for Christian community, but I've a sense both churches have captured at least a piece of that vision.

Anyhow after an interesting six days, seeing the landscape of two beautiful areas of the country (Southern California, and the painted mountains of Tucson), and some catching up with some family and friends, I am headed back to California, where I'll be flying out of Orange Country tomorrow morning. I'm trying to get some other papers finished, so this week's Ten Things will be delayed until Wednesday.

Hope you had a nice weekend.

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