We asked our bloggers to share their biggest dreams for the church. Here’s what they imagine.
The 5-year-old exclaims, “There’s my friend!”
Following his pointing finger, I see a child I have never set eyes upon, running through the sprinkler in her front yard. “You don’t know that child, son. She’s your friend?”
“Well, not yet,” he impatiently responds and, with that, he’s off leaving me open-mouthed with wonder. This was the best sermon I’d heard in a month of Sundays.
The ancient Celts would say a child is “fresh from God.” Welcome the little children, for they receive you just as you are. In the eyes of a child, you are worthy, you are loved, you are enough.
The double-edged sword, however, is that it follows that the grown-up next to you, likewise a recipient of such a child’s grace, is also worthy, also loved, also enough.
My dream, then, is that the sign out front of the church would be changed from “All Are Welcome” to “All Are Included.” I think “inclusion” is more what Jesus meant in the first place. He expects a tremendous amount from us, after all, and you and I both know that “inclusion” is more difficult than welcome. Inclusion makes us uncomfortable, and most of us seek comfort on Sunday mornings (thank you very much). Inclusion would mean that new people would not only be greeted, but allowed to lead in different ways, which, in turn, would mean that we would have to change some of ours. The goal is not change for change’s sake, but that inclusion allows – actually encourages – people to lead with their energy, imagination, intelligence and love.
Perhaps you, gentle reader, might take a moment to dream with me. Think of your faithful congregation, the people you know and love. Picture them in the pews or chairs, right where they sit every Sunday. Now, try to think of who is not there.
Who is not yet a friend of your congregation?
Dream. A word that originally meant “merriment, noise.” Not illusion or fantasy. Dreams are not necessarily a head in the clouds, but grace come on earth, embodied as our Lord who expects much from us —yet gives even more. So, dream of who might join you there by the font, welcomed and included. Dream of who would bring you joy, in whom you take great delight. Dream like a child at play when strangers are people who are not yet friends.
My son and his fast friend are dancing in the sprinkler, a baptism of joy. The same water graces their heads and drips into their open, laughing mouths.
ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN is pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church, a congregation in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and has a certificate in narrative healthcare. His recent essays have been published online at Mockingbird and his poetry at Bearings. He and his wife, Ginny, have three children.