As I rode to my office this morning, the autumn coolness and overcast skies seemed all too appropriate. A Volkswagen Jetta crossed my path doing thirty with a flat tire, filling the air with smoke and the unmistakable smell of burning rubber. Granted, a Houston fall does not really hit until December or January when the leaves finally begin to change. But with the sudden death of two loved ones in my church, and the death of a couple of other friends of friends, the gray skies and strong smells of this morning’s ride somehow made sense.
In 1912, Alice Guy Blanché made a silent film called “Falling Leaves.” It is about a little girl whose older sister is very ill with Consumption, as they called it back then. Trixie, the little girl, overhears the doctor tell her parents that her sister will pass away before the last leaf falls before the winter. And in a move of innocence that would only occur to an unsullied child, Trixie sneaks out of her room into the front yard with a ball of string and begins tying fallen leaves back onto the trees.
I wish I could do that today. I am surrounded this morning by broken hearts and disorientation. Emails, phone calls, face-to-face interactions and hugs dominate these days of overcast skies. I dream about having the power to make everything better, to say the right things, to quote the right Scriptures. But sometimes, the best thing we can do is to make sure that we simply embrace. Be together. Support one another. And in so doing, as a kind of physical analogy, we will tie the leaves on the trees for those of us who are no longer innocent, but who hold out hope.
Yesterday I read an interview with Malcolm Gladwell, author of Tipping Point and Outliers. He is a fascinating person, with what looks to be a fascinating new book called David and Goliath. But all his books aside, what got my attention in the interview was the thread that ran throughout about his return to faith. It’s a common story: Grew up a believer, left organized religion, sensed the presence of God, and then looked for a way for his faith to become his own. That may even be your story.
The interviewer then asked Gladwell if he had a faith community, and he responded, “Not yet.”
My guess is that thousands of people in the Houston area have a similar story to Gladwell’s. If this is your story, and if you have somehow stumbled upon this blog while looking for a community of faith, allow me to make an offer: We are a family-sized community of believers who strive to practice authentic faith. The Bering Drive Church of Christ is a church that reads the Bible together, and looks for ways to live by the teachings of Jesus. We are not afraid to admit when we are wrong about something, and constantly look for ways to grow closer to God. But most of all, we try to be a supportive family to one another, and to those who come our way who are searching for authentic community.
The ghost of church past took me on a ride down memory lane this morning. I remembered a time when my life was dominated by “doing church.” Sunday morning class… Sunday morning worship… Sunday night worship… Wednesday night classes… It was all in the name of community, but somewhere along the way, I noticed that the majority of the time spent at “church” was seated, facing forward, and listening. In order to get to know the people sitting next to me, we had to arrange some sort of lunch meeting, or yet another get together. For some, it was a fifth or sixth gathering for the week. For the introverted half of the population, that was asking a bit much.
Fast forward to the Bering Drive Church of Christ. When I, your friendly neighborhood preacher, began the interview process here, I asked about the scheduled times for classes and worship. My main contact, Paul–(one of the shepherds at the time; not the apostle)–told me that he main face-time for the church was Sunday morning. That’s it. Sure, small groups meet on Sunday evenings in homes. Women’s Wednesday morning Bible study happens in the fall and spring. But as far as regular class and worship, we are all together on Sunday mornings.
What I noticed after being with Bering for a while was the way people found opportunities to be together outside the Sunday morning regular time slot. Rather than facing forward listening to yet another explanation of Romans, people met in restaurants and hospital rooms to sit and share life together. No reason to hurry off to the next meeting or class. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with studying Romans. We are actually doing that in Wednesday morning Women’s Bible Study at the present. But what makes these official class times so good is the family connections we bring to the table at other places.
And that brings us to the Black Walnut Cafe on a Monday night. Last night, twenty-two women from the Bering Drive Church of Christ met for supper. Simple as that. Get together, eat, talk, laugh, share life. Perhaps we can even entertain the possibility that the meal was a form of church. The women were gathered because of their common confession in Jesus. This was more than social time. It was an opportunity to BE the church with one another. Not a program, nor a planned initiative to grow, nor a collection of information. Just a time to be together in the name of Jesus.
And that is all.