21 July, 2010

Coffee, Port and Barefoot Wine

I'm ordained, which is nice.

On June 12th, somewhere around 7:45 in the evening, at Salem's First (But Not Only) United Methodist Church, my Bishop laid his hands upon my head and told me to take authority, etc., etc.

The friends and family (1) who had gathered for the event gathered again the next evening at a lovely restaurant in downtown Portland. Wine was shared, good food was eaten, there was much laughter and even a bottle of 1983 Port. It was a fine celebration.

Once I returned home, the fine folks of my church also celebrated with me and, to commemorate the occasion, gave me a magnum of "Barefoot"(2) wine. While this clearly violated United Methodist discipline, it was a gracious and thoughtful gift, and I suspect that neither Jesus nor John (3) would object.

So, ordination having come and gone, where now?

I'm back in The Big, the holy odor of the ordination service having mostly worn off. And there's plenty to do.

We (the fine folks of the LGUMC and me) have decided to start a new worship service. An "emergent" worship, if you will. Aimed at the folks of La Grande who are spiritually hungry but a bit skeptical on the church thing. Or at least they're skeptical on the church thing as it's presently constituted.

And, since my return to La Grande, another bit of news. The new coffee shop (White House Coffee) located oh-so-conveniently next to the church has opened. In fact, I'm sitting there right now.

Since WHC has opened it's been a raving success. Always lots of folks around, a pleasant vibe and community-wide buzz. They've done an excellent job creating a welcoming space, decorating nicely (4) and serving good coffee and food. I've already made it my extension office. So much so that congregants who stop in for coffee or lunch expect to find me here.

What hath these three threads to do, one with the others? Let me attempt to weave mine answer.

We have a crapton of places in La Grande where one might buy coffee. Good coffee. And yet this place is never empty. Why? I think it's because the folks here at WHC have created a warm and welcoming place that feels both old and new. It feels comfortable. And there's this not-so-easily explained sense that I get when I walk in the doors (and that I suspect others experience, too): It feels communal. People walk in and want to be here with other folks. We may not always be in conversation, we White House Coffee Patrons, but we gladly share the space. That's really nothing earth-shaking - all of our favorite public places feel like that, I suspect. But there were precious few places around the LG like that.

I'm hopeful that this new worship gathering, whatever it turns out to be, captures some of the same feel. I hope people walk in and feel welcomed and comfortable and want to share the sacred space with others, both the folks they know and the folks not yet known.

It's a sad fact that our congregations have somehow NOT created places that feel as welcoming as our local coffee shops. (5) One might suggest it borders upon sin that we've made the Good News so unwelcoming and uptight. (6)

And what hath ordination to do with all of this?

Maybe I just wanted to celebrate in blogprint that I really did, after a couple of decades, get ordained. (Hooray me!)

But maybe there's something about the taking of authority, which the Bishop mentioned in passing at my ordination. Nothing has changed dramatically in how I see the world, the Church or my calling. But maybe it's that now I have an excuse to stop waiting around for someone to fix what I think is broken and get my butt in gear to do something new.

Or maybe that's just the caffeine from three mugs of WHC's finest Stumptown brew talking. Hard to tell.

Much peace, much love, too much coffee, etc.

(1) Actually, the assemblage of folks pleasantly blurred the line between these two categories. Should we call these kinds of people "Friemily?" "Famriends?"

(2) They chose "Barefoot" since I was ordained shoelessly, just as I was wed and will ask to be buried.

(3) Wesley, natch.

(4) One room is decorated with old photos of La Grande. At the table at which I sit, hanging 6 inches to my left is a photo of our church building, circa 1915. To my right, through the window and 60 feet away is the actual church building, circa 2010. It's an interesting place to sit and ponder our congregation's past, present and future.

(5) In a similar vein, my VBFFITWWW Johnny Flemmons once pointed out, amidst the brouhaha surrounding Harry Potter, that it might be a sin that we've taken the Gospel and made it so boring, that we don't tell it as well as Ms. Rowling tells her stories. I've always liked John's way of thinking.

(6) Let me hasten to add that I think that the fine folks of LGUMC are warm and welcoming; this is not a condemnation of us particularly. Rather, this seems a Church-wide issue. Not entirely of our making, perhaps, but our responsibility to confront and rectify.