Word of the Week


People often ask me what makes Washington Plaza such a unique place. Why is it that I love my church so much?

There are often countless ways to answer this, but what keeps coming to mind is the word "authenticity." Otherwise known as the intangible quality of being comfortable enough in your skin to freely share your life with others.

It's been a really social week for me in terms of meals and activities shared with church members-- dinners, lunches, and gatherings at people's homes and mine to share in conversation. I've been delightfully surprised as I've observed people sharing their lives with one another. Of course, such is expected. We gather, we talk. We often talk about ourselves.  Doesn't sound too revolutionary, does it?

Yet, what I'm pointing out goes beyond the normal, "How are you?  . . . I am fine" train of conversation. For such conversing I've heard has included people sharing things that I've often never heard talked about in church before.  There is no shame in talking about children in trouble or difficult past experiences or even the fear of loneliness, depression or anxiety. There is ease in talking about divorce, grief and job loss. I want to pinch myself sometimes and wonder, "Is this really the church that everyone is so critical of and saying it is full of a bunch of hypocrites?" For such is just not what I'm experiencing as the pastor of Washington Plaza.

For example, I've heard things like:

We should really check in on __________; she is going through a really rough time with her family.

I have been dealing with this addiction for _____ years now and I keep working toward healing every day.

My heart is heavy for________. His life is really sad right now. These things keep happening to him; we really need to rally around him as a church for support.

Our prayer sharing time on Sunday mornings during worship is often a culmination of this spiritual gift of our congregation. It's always one of my favorite times of the week to hear the thanksgivings and prayers from the people because it's not the normal "my great aunt's cousin's friend is sick" rather it is a "I'm having a hard time passing this class at school" or "My daughter is going to jail this week" or "I'm having difficulty paying the bills" or "I need encouragement in raising my children; they are testing my patience."

While I know regular church participation isn't for everybody (I believe more and more that belonging to the church, especially in a fast paced urban environment is a calling, not a given), I hold on to my committment to church because I believe the gift of authenticity. I believe it is what will see us through our rough patches. For, we all need REAL community to keep us accountable and keep reminding us who we are.

No, we will not always be right. No, we won't always be faithful. No, we won't always live up to our potential. BUT, my hope for the congregation's witness is that we will continue to always be authentic. We won't shy away from saying life is bad when it is. We won't be afraid to ask for help when it is need. We won't be afraid to share our lives with gusto even with all of their imperfections.

From what my non-religious friends say, authenticity is the value that our world longs to see more of in people of faith. So, let's not back way from this part of our DNA and keep offering life-giving community to any who might want to join us!