Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Goodbye ecclesia

When you believe things happen for a reason, that there is a design to this narrative you call your life, you can end up spending a lot of time scratching your head. So I’ve worn out a little patch on my scalp over this one. When the writing group I’m involved with formed two years ago we set up shop at Taft Street Coffee, a place provided by a church called ecclesia. The space, a converted church building, housed a bookstore, an art gallery and a recording studio among other things. Depending on when you showed up, you could find open mike poetry readings, a concert or an organic farmers markets going on in the gymnasium.

It was confusing: a church building owned by a church that borrowed another church for its own services while offering the use of its property to various entities to benefit the surrounding community. Although I’d come to feel quite at home in the Taft space and appreciated the hospitality offered to the likes of us by ecclesia, I couldn’t quite get a handle on just who or what ecclesia was. I just knew that 2115 Taft Street represented a unique display of spiritual and artisitic community that floated all my boats in its ambitions. Then over last summer and fall ecclesia renovated the gymnasium/performance area and for the first time since their inception in 2001 (I think), began to hold their weekly services in the building. Meanwhile, Image had scheduled their yearly conference to be held in Houston and ended up utilizing Taft as one of the conference venues. As part of the four day event last October, a worship service was held at Taft and that was how I inadvertently attended an ecclesia service.

I’ve been attending ever since. Which is to say my time there has not been nearly long enough and is the reason I have been scratching my head ever since our move to Missouri began to gel. I love the community they have fostered; I'm moved, challenged and inspired every time I walk through their doors. In a time when it seems many Christians believe “when two or three are gathered in My name, we’re at a Republican convention,” it’s deeply heartening to see people focused on putting hands and feet, their own hands and feet, to the gospel. I wrote a benediction for last Sunday's service based on the lectionary readings for the week which addresses something I else love about ecclesia–how they embrace the world in all its forms, its beauty and its brokenness, and yet strive to be not of it, how they inhabit the world within the world, addressing the unseen within the seen, and seek out the essence of what really matters. I will miss the community, and it truly is a community, greatly, though I find solace in the belief that no goodbye lasts forever. Thank you, ecclesia.

Benediction for the 7th Sunday of Easter

You who have known the name of God
who have received the word of Christ
You who Christ has presented to the Father as His own
Go out into the world as One
as Christ and the Father are One
called to the world, yet no longer of it
turning from every evil way
and delighting in the truth that He is
and make known that everything in this world
came from Him
and will return to Him
to bring Him glory
Relinquish those things that will blow away like chaff in the wind
and persevere in that which will bear fruit and remain
while you walk between the world that is
and the world that is to come
keep His word
as He has kept you for the Father
and so bring Him glory
that His joy in you would be made full.


Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

It's so hard to taste and see what is good and worthy and beneficial for life, then watch it disappear behind you on your way to an unknown place. It has touched your palate, salted your desire, to look for more. Perhaps for this reason. How easy it would be to go to a new place, full of of the busy-ness of settling in, full of the insecurities of being new, and not want to search out what your soul needs. I think discovering ecclesia, at this time, will spur you to seek for more. The memories will remain fresh long after you move. Thirst.

The Church Bartender said...

I never get tired of hearing these kind of stories...