In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Church Open to All

Today, I served as Assisting Minister at a congregation where I am no longer a member. I'm not sure why they still want me to act as a worship leader, but it can be fun to do.

Today, there was a person with some mental illness present. He kept coming up front, into the chancel area. The first time was during the children's sermon. He sat behind the kids and the pastor, showing off a bicep tattoo. I get very protective of kids, so I watched him closely. Eventually, he went back to his seat.

Then, he came up during the offering and placed an envelope on the altar. This was done with great reverence, including holding his arms up to the air. As assisting minister, I was the next to go behind the altar. Again, my paranoia made me wonder what was in this "package" that he put on the altar. When I got there, I saw that it was labeled with his name a 99 cents. I picked it up to set is aside, and the change jingled inside.

Then, during the serving of communion, the guy came and set on the chancel steps again. One of the pastors who felt like she knew him well told him that if he came to the railing, she would serve him communion. He refused and extended both middle fingers in her face. He started yelling. By this time, the security guy was there to take him out of the room. Sadly, he was ejected from the worship space and his shirt was torn.

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I support an urban congregation that keeps its doors open, even if folks wander through the worship space. I don't like it when we have to remove someone from worship, but I do know that it happens. I also think about congregations and welcoming statements. When a congregation says they are welcoming to all, they have to include guys like this. It is an inherent risk when a congregation wants to be hospitable. In my mind, it's an acceptable risk.

I was feeling pretty comfortable with the events of the morning when I came home from church. Then, I read the news that a gunman killed a pastor and wounded several worshipers in a worship service this morning. Whatever we experienced in worship this morning was nothing compared to what happened in Illinois. Again, I believe that this is a risk that exists for worship places. I would never want to see a church under lock and key. However, events like this morning are tragic, no matter what happens.


Blogger Scott Alan said...

They're both tragic in different ways. I share your pain when we realize that there will be times the church can't welcome all as we'd like.

4:43 PM  

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