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A Church Autobiography
I am a pastor’s kid, and was literally raised at church (I even took my first steps on the youth group bus). My parents spent my first two years with a hippie congregation in the mountains of Santa Cruz, and then moved to Illinois where my dad was youth pastor with an Evangelical Free Church (very fundamentalist, very Swedish) for 19 years. I was heavily involved in everything I “should” be as the pastor’s daughter.
I was at Wheaton College during the Big Revival, but I honestly thought it was a bunch of hooey. After moving to LA, I grew out of evangelical-style worship (especially the music).
Growing up I was badly damaged by fundamentalism and left my youth with a pretty messed-up view of the church. It didn’t help that my formative church had always treated my father horribly. He was judged by our actions and we were all held to a ridiculous standard. I was very confused about what God wanted from me. I really believed that the purpose of the church was two-fold: to get people to “ask Jesus into their heart” and keep Christians in constant reminder of how to act and think the way that a Christian is expected to.
Oddly, I was never turned off of Jesus, just the church. That’s why for most of college I avoided any big commitment to a church body, but remained very close to God.
My church experiences have been something of a roller coaster, but I believe they add up to creating strong character, a healthy cynicism of both emotionalism and Pharisee-ism, and a clear knowledge of what I am looking for both in terms of worshiping God and the place in the body where I am comfortable. I have learned that I don’t belong in a church that is too rules-oriented, and certainly not one that tells its members what to think.
I’ve been in some sick churches, and through those bad times, God showed me just how much the people inside the church need saving too. To finally find a church that stresses the welcoming nature of God over His judgment has been truly eye opening and refreshing. I have perhaps gotten a little lax about holding others accountable, but I’ve learned the hard way how easy it is to go overboard when trying to be helpful. I would rather err to the side of being too accepting and too loving.
I would say that the Scriptures that most directly form my hopes for the Church and my role in it are the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the 23rd Psalm. I know they are common, but there is good reason: they are seminal for understanding the proper human relationship to God and with one other. I want to see the Church as the place where God’s mercy is wide, our love for him and for one another is deep, and our cares and concerns are no more. These three biblical passages offer the true Meaning of Life.
Obviously the biggest turn in my ecclesiology was moving into the Anglican church. I was seeking a reconnection with mystery, history, and deep thought. The Episcopal Church emphasizes the ineffable, it connects directly to 2,000 years of Church (I think the line of Apostolic Succession is the coolest thing ever!), and it celebrates the diversity of ideas within its members. I went from denominations that focused primarily on salvation to one focused on discipleship. From “fire-insurance” evangelism to transformation of the world through the Church of Christ. From wrapping up our faith in Christ’s death to cementing it in his Resurrection. The Church is made up of many fallible and weak human beings, to be sure, but together, blessed by the Spirit, we are able to be partners in ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven.
I am greatly relieved to see that professors and students here are largely thinking the same way as me. It makes me realize that I did indeed choose the correct seminary.
If anything, I have been taken aback by the huge diversity that exists here, especially among the student body. We all come from so many wildly different backgrounds and are in such flux right now. But if anything is consistent, it seems to be that most of us are questioning, and most of us are more than ready to listen to new ideas.
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