So finally, my new church.
I feel like it’s something that will take time for me to grow into. My whole life (minus this summer), I’ve gone to church in the suburbs. The church I grew up going to, in the third ring suburbs of St. Paul, was primarily white, and decidedly affluent. A small corner of the bulletin every week was devoted to service and mission ministry announcements, while a page or two was dedicated to announcements about choir rehearsals, expensive ski trips, and various children’s and youth activities. None of it was wrong or “bad,” but it did all feel very privileged and isolating, and when the yearly sermon came around that discussed a passaged in the Bible about poverty, maybe the yearly mission trip to Jamaica would be mentioned, but not much else. Not the poverty that was thirty minutes away in the city, or even outside of our own door.
Then, coming to college, I went to a more charismatic Vineyard church the first Sunday of freshmen fall with a huge group of students from the Christian Fellowship, and absolutely loved it. I loved the worship style (that we were singing to God, not just about God), the laid back style of dress and preaching, the babies all crawling around in the back, and the coffee and treats served during, not after, the service. I also loved the focus on stopping human trafficking, supporting the lives of missionaries in places like Bolivia, and generally figuring out how our faith lives.
However, something was still missing. Maybe it was racial diversity (the congregation was still primarily white. The other students from my college were the main ones providing diversity. Haha.), maybe it was age diversity (most people at the church are forty and under), maybe it was political diversity.
Or maybe it was simply the fact that the people we were talking about and helping, just weren’t present. We were isolating ourselves in the suburbs, putting a few dollars in the donation jar in the back, trying to help them as best as we could, without letting them help us.
So church now, at Broad Street Ministry?
Everyone’s there. Quite literally everyone. A random suburban white girl from Minnesota. A PhD student at Wharton School of Business from South Africa. A woman who goes to church with her friend twice on Sundays so she won’t slip back into patterns of addiction. Numerous hippie Christian students from Eastern. Old white people. Young black men. Hipster Asians. Gay Hipster Asians. Queer clergy. People living on the street and in shelters. Old black men who know how to knit. It’s fantastic. It’s absolutely wonderful, and it’s what the kingdom of God looks like. Right here, right now, that’s the kingdom of God. And at the end of the service, we all gather around tables and eat together, the same food, the same chairs, the same table clothes. I can’t put into words how real this Christianity is to me. No more talking about the other, because the other is right there, right by your side, eating the same food you’re eating or singing the same song you’re singing. No more feeling like you’re being patronizing or have a white savior complex, because, sure, while you donated some clothes and soap to help some of them out, they’re helping you out too, pulling a chair over for you, passing the bread, and giving you a huge bear hug.
Not gonna lie. As wonderful as this new church is and as much as it lines up with Jesus’ vision for the world, I’m is still pretty uncomfortable with this new change. It’s hard to break internalized dispositions (yayyy, habitus) and social habits. To be truthful, my world was so incredibly white before coming to college, and I feel like church was the last stronghold for that complete lack of diversity. As horrible as it is, white suburban churches feel like home. It’s also just hard to go to church alone, not with a large group of friends, and to take both the bus and subway so I save money. I also wonder every time I get up for communion whether I should be taking my backpack up with me or if it’s okay to leave it sitting there, with my wallet inside.
However, if faith isn’t uncomfortable and challenging, in a way that grows and stretches your heart, then what’s the point of it? I don’t want to be part of a church structure that reifies and supports the status quo, and all of the injustices that contains. I want to be part of something new and fresh. Something that looks so drastically different from our society today, that every time people walk by and see us, they wonder who or what could have possibly brought us together. I want to go to a place that makes me and others think.
So that’s my new church, and my schedule works out perfectly so that for the next few weeks, I’ll get to go to the overnight shift at SREHUP afterwards. Starting my week off with so many people I love? Pure gold. God is good.