Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wide Open Spaces

There is a door at Mount Vernon Place that is wide open right now. It is a large hole that has been cut by the construction crew as part of the renovation work. There is currently nothing covering the hole. In fact, the church seems rather open (once you get inside the fence) to people, animals, or birds. It appears that anyone could walk right inside. Someone has been visiting our church all summer after moving here from the Northwest. She came to Mount Vernon Place by accident. She intended to visit a church a few blocks over, but she could not find a single door that was unlocked. It was Sunday morning, but the doors of the church were locked. Either the security guard had stepped away or someone failed to completely unlock the doors. She was locked outside. As a result, she walked down the street and found an unlocked door at Mount Vernon Place, and she has since become part of our worshipping community.
As a church, are we better at locking doors or making them appear as though anyone can walk inside? Are our doors locked or unlocked? Are people coming hoping to find an unlocked door and then being turned away only to go to another place - perhaps not even a church?
Fridays are my day off at the church. And while I recognize that the purpose of Sabbath is to rest and worship, I often find myself doing different things around the house and in the neighborhood. And, grocery shopping is something I normally do on Friday mornings.

There is a Giant Food Store up the street, and the sale advertisement for Giant now starts on Fridays. As a result, the store is not always easy to navigate on Fridays. Yes, the produce aisles are well stocked. And, I can always find the foods that are on sale before they are sold out. However, I have to navigate my cart around the large carts that the Giant employees are using to stock the shelves. And, while I know the Giant employees are doing their job - trying to be helpful, the Giant employees sometimes leave the carts in such a way that no one else can get through the aisle. They sometimes stand around laughing instead of helping other customers. I have even noticed the managers having a long discussion the middle of the aisle, unaware of how they were blocking the aisle from the full use of customers.

I wonder how often we in the church do these things...

I wonder how often we block the aisles, preventing someone from truly navigating the waters of faith, worship and spirituality. I wonder how often our efforts to keep the shelves stocked with "things we have always done" prohibits others from experiencing the Living God. I wonder how many times others have been turned aside because the people on the inside were standing around talking, unaware of the person who is begging for someone to speak to her or sit by her. And, I wonder how our actions can lead others to believe that they are not welcome - that the doors of the church are locked to them - because of who they are, what they have done, what they have failed to do, who they have loved, who they have failed to love, or even what they are wearing.

There is a door that is wide open at Mount Vernon Place. This door will not be kept wide open for long, however. As the construction project moves along, it will be filled and covered.

However, I hope we will do whatever we can to make sure that the doors of our church are always wide open to all kinds of people - to everyone in our neighborhood - the homeless man who sits outside, the woman who awakes from the grate where she has been sleeping, the people who work as attorneys across the street, the young adults who are trying to decide whether to take a long run or come to church on Sunday, the people who have always been there, the people who are amazed that they have actually come to church, the people who are filled with faith, and the people who are filled with doubt.

May our door be open. May the space be wide open for all people to come and experience the presence of our Living God. Amen.

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