Well here I am at the end of my long weekend. It's been a quiet day here in Lake Wobegon....I mean Fremont. I had a surprise when one of my Fuller friends showed up at church here last night. Turns out she's interning at a Presby church nearby and comes to cota to "be with people my own age."
And there were plenty of those. Near as I could tell, everyone who comes is a Christian already, but is disillusioned with their Evangelical/Pentecostal/Mainline background. So it's slightly off from the initial presentation the church makes - that they are reaching out to the lost of their surrounding neighborhood. I mean, that's definitely their goal, they're just not there yet, which is fine. They're in this for the long haul. But yeah, right now, it's mostly kids from the local Christian college and a few others.
The service went okay - although because we knew what the plan was and how it was actually supposed to happen, we knew when things didn't go right. Still, nobody seemed the least bit troubled about that. They're very laid back. I will say that had I not met these folks and spent some time hanging out with them, I might have thought, as one visitor we spoke to said, that they were trying too hard to be cool. It did come off - well, not as cheesy as Mosaic, but affected. Still, because we'd talked to the leaders and knew their hearts were 100% in their work, we knew they were sincerely trying the best they could. At that point, I just have to accept that "alt-worship" is not to my personal taste, but that doesn't make it bad (as hard as that is to admit!).
This is a wonderful group of people and they definitely have the right attitude about solid community and giving space to question. They allow for a wide range of viewpoints but they don't make apologies about reading scripture, corporate praying, or serving Eucharist every week. They do have roots and honor them; they also like to play with the tradition.
And nobody pretends it's perfect. They know they need to reach their neighbors; they know they need to assimilate newcomers better. I got to witness a hissy fit yesterday from a person involved in the service who didn't want to be asked to participate at such late notice. They don't have consistent money coming in. Their heat only works half the time (we know, we've been sleeping here). They are disorganized to a point that would drive me mad.
But people love it. They feel refreshed, peaceful, welcomed, accepted, trusted, honored, used (in a good way), not pressured. The church has grown tremendously for a start-up. They are doing something right.
Plus they've got all these people living here at the church (they call it an abbey), including two who've taken the title of "monk" and are trying to live into that. They house people with nowhere else to go for months - as long as it takes. The liturgical arts pastor mops the floor. The intern gives the sermon (and the people raise hands and give their own opinion on the topic!). There's a pug, Jerry, who's been blessed as "minister of hospitality" (and has also communed - accidentally - when some bread fell on the floor!). They are baptizing people. They have several houses full of church members living in intentional community. They go through the lectionary texts during the week and have a group that meets in a pub to talk about theology over beer and they watch films of significance. They have a woman who has written giant icons for their worship space. They have musicians who write the service music. There's an awful lot of gifting that this church has been blessed with. And they use it well.
Right now I'm waiting for someone to take us to the airport. We're hoping that will happen. So far the hospitality has been wonderful - we're sleeping at the church and have been treated to several meals, not to mention quite friendly cooperation with our intrusive camerawork. Of course I don't want to get stuck here but I also don't really want to take a bus in a foreign town. It'll be fine. But friends in LA, if we're not back in a couple more days, send out a search party.
So I just bought two buttons and now I'll tell you what they say:
"Please Jesus protect me from your followers"
"A fat ass is a sign of a life well lived"
Wow...I think that's the end for today. If you're curious about cota visit them online at www.apostleschurch.org.
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