It has been a while since I’ve expressed my love in a space like this for the congregation where I serve– something I know that few pastors can actually do honestly about their parishes. But, I can and I really want to do this today.
Why? Again, recently, I was attending (sigh) a denominational meeting (I know I tend to rant about these a lot) and when I do, I always walk away from such gatherings with a newly empowering awareness of how lucky I am to be pastoring my particular congregation. Who would want to pastor the same old, same old kind of church? Not me. Though the challenges can seem overwhelming at times as we draw a population of members who often are in transition in many aspects of our lives, I feel that together we are paving a new way doing church.
Washington Plaza is not perfect. And, of course, there is a long road of growth needed ahead of us, but there is a depth of character and authenticity here that naturally flows out of how cool these people are. And, I just get to come alongside them for the ride. . .
So, why do I love my church?
1. They love me. They are so kind to me. They treat me fairly. There isn’t a week that goes by when I’m not hugged and loved on by a different person. I know they do thoughtful things for me not because I just got here and they are pretending still (because this would have long ago worn off), but because I believe this congregation and I understand each other and genuinely like each other. They treat me the way they would want to be treated. It is a good thing, a very good thing.
2. Some of the saints of God attend here. We have members who go out of their way on a weekly basis to serve in outreach ministries for the sheer sake of calling. They teach English as a second language classes. They give high school kids rides to work after morning worship, even when it means going out of their way. They collect can goods and take them to Reston Interfaith’s emergency food pantry even when they are in their 80s and shouldn’t be lifting things. They sit with our terminally ill members in the hospital. They give money to missions and bring food to share with our weekly community meals, even when they don’t have it in their pockets to give.
3. There isn’t a conversation, it seems, that they are scared of having. On this Sunday morning for example, we participated in a call to prayer for violence against transgendered persons in the DC metro area. Did anyone looked shocked? No, just nods on their faces of support saying back at me without these words, “Of course, we’ll pray.”
4. They are willing to try new things. Even when I have crazy idea like “let’s have church in the Plaza room” as we did this past July, everyone said, “Ok, we’ll try it.” Not all new ideas stand the test of time, of course, but I think any reasonable idea is worth trying at least once. I see an attitude of flexibility embedded in the spirit of the people, and it makes my job so much easier.
5. They accept anybody. Really, they do, especially those who stick around and want to commit themselves to the life of the community. I never have to worry about bringing friends and folks not being nice to them. Sometimes I stand at the door on Sunday and stand alone for long periods of time because everyone is so busy talking to each other. It’s so good to see that I don’t mind being there alone.
I am proud to be the pastor of Washington Plaza Baptist Church for these reasons and many more– such is my decree this Monday morning.