Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ramblings of Church and Sundays

GLORY GLORY (HALLELUJAH) (SINCE I LAID MY BURDEN DOWN)
Traditional Negro Spiritual

REFRAIN:
Glory glory, hallelujah
Since I lay my burden down
Glory glory, hallelujah
Since I lay my burden down
Glory glory, hallelujah
Since I lay my burden down
Glory glory, hallelujah
Since I lay my burden down

All my sickness will be over
When I lay my burden down
All my sickness will be over
When I lay my burden down

All my troubles will be over
When I lay my burden down
All my troubles will be over
When I lay my burden down

Lord, I'm feeling so much better
Since I lay my burden down
Lord, I'm feeling so much better
Since I lay my burden down



It's a splendid day here in the Burgh (pardon the rather antiquated term of endearment, I just couldn't help it)and I've been having some rambling thoughts that I thought I'd share, regarding our current spiritual path:

We stumbled into The Open Door Church nearly three years ago after moving to Pittsburgh and getting settled (a process that took longer than it would seem from this sentence). Jen Lemen, in all of her "emergent church" wisdom, had helped me find three locations where Tom and I might want to worship (after years of being complacent in a rather hard-core evangelical castle, where christianity had been boiled down to a religion for pretty, happy, affluent, heterosexuals who befriended and voted solely for others who were the same.) I sent an email to BJ, the senior pastor, introducing myself, and proclaimed that I was a "stay-at-home attachment parent of three children, lover of blacks, gays, and feminism," to which he said "welcome." So we became off-and-on congregants, completely sold on their "we love kids, even if they are screaming during the service" and "come as you are" philosophies. Don't get me wrong, this is no "mamby-pamby-Jesus-is-all-smiles-and-rainbows" kind of community- it is a missional church, whose intention is to follow the words and works of Christ, with a heavy emphasis on serving others. It's hands-on style requires everyone to at least be paying attention for an hour and a half, if not participating with genuine enthusiasm. At times there are prayer stations for you to gather at, weep at, lay at, where even my children are welcome and encouraged to spend time

This spring, our family made a committment to have this church be a consistent part of our family life and have devoted nearly every Sunday since to being present there.
Here are some further tid-bits about our morning of praise and prayerful contemplation (actually I was the "designated parent" on duty with Seth at the back of the room so my contemplating was usurped by constant utterings of "shhhhhhhh" and "yes- there's a firetruck, sweety. yes- you love firetrucks. yes- there's a dog on the truck...".):

*Today was our monthly "community dinner". This has long been our favorite of Sunday traditions with The Open Door. Since the service has switched to mornings for the summertime, Tom prepared a lucious French Toast Casserole for us to bring- the smell alone would have driven even the staunchest of aetheists into the Lord's presence. Is there anything more delightful than bread with cinnamon and sugar baked into it? No....I daresay there is not. My children, who are infamous for their marathon eating sprees, look forward to the buffet of delectible dishes with as much fervor as going to Kennywood (okay- I exaggerate only slightly) and ran into the sanctuary, nearly landing on top of the various crocks planted on a side table. Truly you would think they'd just gotten off a boat from some land of famine. And unlike the more mature members of the congregation, The Sombar kids prefer to continue feeding themselves for the duration of worship, long after other folks, with a little more cooth, have taken seats and moved on with the prayer and praise. At one point, this morning, I spied Benjamin bringing a plate of three boiled eggs to his father to peel, about ten minutes before the benediction.

*As we were exiting the parking lot to head into the Union Project for church, Lily declared "Mommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmy- you are wearing my shoes!!" Yes, friends, the time has now come where my daughter and I can swap footwear, and I can honestly say this is a good thing (she may not agree). And with our dualing ADD, one of us is bound to know where a pair of flip-flops are located, even when the other has no clue. This same big girl daughter of mine laid in my lap on the floor at the back of the sanctuary, causing my heart to swell- I just held her and tried to stop time, knowing that one day she will rather die than cuddle with her mother in public. The same is often true for Liam and Benjamin who generally, at some point, snuggle close before going off to play with other children or hear Bible stories in another room (today they were too busy eating).

*Seth resisted the urge to pummel other small beings, though he stared down an eighteen month-old pretty hard during the sermon. Even Jesus faced temptation, right?

*John Creasy, the assistant pastor and sometimes rockin' band leader, lead everyone in a rousing rendition of "Lay My Burdens Down" ("Glory Glory, Hallelujah, I'm Gonna Lay My Burdens Down..."), with a small herd of little people twirling near the pulpit. You couldn't help but smile, then clap and sing louder than normal- getting us all out of our typical "pathetic white people church droan."

I will never claim to be disciple-like in my following of Christ. My imperfection in this area is the same as my life in general, my best intentions being renewed with the dawn of each day, my heart firmly planted in the passionate pursuit of soulfulness, with sometimes disappointing results. I don't believe, anymore, that Western Christianity fulfills much of the purposes of Jesus, what with our mega-churches and cut-throat superiority complexes. But I do believe that there can be a happy medium between joining the throngs of hypocrites and rejecting spirituality altogether, and for me, it lies somewhere in the hood in Pittsburgh, where you sweat it out in the summer, on slanted floors with acoustics which make everyone nearly inaudible. It lies in the reality of everyone who steps through these doors-bringing forth their hodge-podge lives, their insignificance, their issues, their delight and despair, whose glow, despite it all, is infectious and with whom you know you will always have shelter and the love of God.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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