On Saturday of last week over 400 people gathered for a deep gratitude breath.
We were celebrating the life and love and wrangle of a beloved friend, father, partner and pastor. Loren Nelson died after three years of jousting with cancer. He died with a soul ashine and a gentle enfolding that wafted him into blessing.
And, we miss him already.
One of the reasons for the missing was the amazing way he had of weaving community around his passions; the Word made flesh was so alive in the community that gathered to share his memorial service. There were organic farmers and pastors and compatriots in the movement of justice and there were children and grandchildren and his beloved wife and we sang and laughed and prayed and remembered that one life lived with gusto has the power to shift the stuck.
It’s the sort of funeral I want for my own self. We laughed and shared compassion around the vulnerable grit it takes to be human. The music was sublime, the need to witness palpable, and the loving strong.
We were in a house of worship that has held the voices of the faithful for decades. Under the copper top, with clouds floating by, we spoke our love and ache and wonder at the miracle of it all.
Life. Life lived fiercely, tenderly, and eternally.
I am jumbled.
I am newly back from a UM conference held in Columbus, Ohio. The site of the training is a new church start. This new church is not in some upscale suburban sprawl: it is a store front in south Columbus. The name of the church is “United Methodist Church for All People” and they mean it. Calling this church home are the newly released from addiction, the homeless, those gripped by poverty and in bondage to addiction, middle and upper class people of privilege, passionate lay folk and people called by God to establish an oasis of grace in the midst of the desert of poverty.
A pastor who had pedigree and connections and every light greened for big-pulpit splendor could not bear the need of the people and the non-response of United Methodists. He was serving as a District Superintendent and feeling the loss of himself and so it was he began a Free Store. Everything in the store is free, because grace is free and how else would grace be offered? After dispensing free clothing and household goods for a number of years the most precious of gifts was shared: the gift of prayer and companionship in Christ and the horribly and gloriously challenging gift of living as the Body of Christ with a rainbow of folk. They decided to become church.
They are worshipping and learning and witnessing and healing and holding and “I want to be one too”, as the old hymn goes.
I want to be one too.
Today we awoke to a state ensnared (once again) in political quagmires that seem endless. And I mourn: how can it be that millions upon millions are pumped into this state for political campaigns and we are yet unable to know in our souls that the hunger and hurt of our sisters and brothers is our own? The untruths that are being slung about are fueled by fear and folks seem convinced that compassion for others is sinister plot.
I’m proud to be a follower of the Way. Compassion is our calling. Challenge is our call. Community is our teacher.
There is church going on in south Columbus and in Richfield and outposts of grace open their doors yet to a world sore in need of healing.
So we live jumble, oh yes we do. But we do not do this living and loving alone.