Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Church with Diversity and Contrast

I love the variety, the unexpected and the huge diversity that is my church. Perhaps I should describe the basic setting first. We meet in an older-than-a-century four-story brick refurbished tractor factory built in what was, at the time, the perfect location, right beside the railyard. Today this neighbourhood is the saddest, neediest, most violent place in the city. The old brick, massive timbers and polished but distressed oak floors inside remind us that this is no ordinary church.

Our pastor said that we are at the intersection of the ordinary and the kingdom of God, which couldn’t be truer. In our midst are suburbanites who move in the finance, medical and education worlds, Others are artists, musicians, writers. Some are homeless, some living in booze-can hotels and some in apartments and houses that have seen better days. We have the well-dressed and the unwashed, those with poise and those who hide in corners, never looking anyone in the face. Prostitutes and drug addicts mix with the minivan crowd and together we make what may be the oddest but very warm community.

This week was a good example. In the midst of our worship time, two girls in black, each with a multi-coloured shawl around her hips, did a beautiful interpretive contemporary dance of worship to a song that included the words, “I will not be moved, I will not be shaken.”

A little boy about five arrived at church with a costume of gem-studded gold crown and cape.

The pastor opened the microphone to those who had announcements to make because he couldn’t remember all who had asked him to do it. We heard about the fund-raising banquet for Living Bible Explorers, an inner-city ministry to children with the least promising futures; the tree-cutting bee at the church-owned farm (bring your chainsaw, please); and a neighbourhood man in scruffy clothes talked about how God used gamma-ray surgery to remove a large growth from the back of his head. We were told about the evening before when all the Himalayan people in Winnipeg—Buddhist, Hindu and Christian—gathered together in our building and we listened as one very articulate young man shared his recent experiences on a leper colony near Bangalore, India—a story of how lonely is the leper’s existence but also of miracles performed by God.

When all the preamble was done, the Nepalese pastor visiting from our sister church in Kathmandu stood up to exhort us to living a godly life. That deserves its own post, which I will hopefully share soon.

I love this church. I love the diversity and contrast. I love the way I am challenged to step out of my “box” and see life from different perspectives. I love the ministry to our needy neighbourhood and to the needy on the other side of the world (e.g. water is currently available in Kathmandu for only four hours a day—at unpredictable times). God is good.


Abby said...

Hey Debbie! This post is wonderful... I wish my church were more like that. We're in the darker side of town, and we've attracted sketchy people.... there's a guy who stalks me all the time, and there's this other guy who was trying to get out of his druggie situation... however one of the pastors drove him away. I felt really awful about that.

Debbie Haughland Chan said...

That is sad. I think it happens all too often.