Friday, March 20, 2015

Faithful Practice is not perfect

Place - Western New York, in a small post-industrial city continuing to effort of reinventing itself. There are many small towns an cities like this along the northeast.

But this is my town.

My family and I have lived and worked in this community for over 20 years now. Personally, I've served in three different church denominations during that time here. I don't think it's even possible to count the number of people I've had the honor to get to know over that time, but as my children will tell you it's impossible for me to get groceries without seeing at least five people that I know.

But this is not really my story, this is God's story.

Over the last twenty years, there are two practices that I feel have been God's gift to me:
Creativity and relationships.

As suggested before, relationships happen when you are in one place long enough. However authentic relationships require compassion, listening, persistence and grace. For relationships to move beyond surface water cooler talk, there needs to be something/someone deeply running a current of care and love that remains unseen but is always felt. Martin Buber, a well-known philosopher said, “When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” (Goodreads, Burber)

This is the feeling and space of knowing the other person as well as being known is what I refer to when I speak about building authentic relationships. This is a gift from God that is part of the story of this place I call home.

My second choice of gift from God for this place is creativity. As you can imagine, the theological shift of serving three different denominations over the last twenty years has been challenging. That is correct, but it is important to remember that while my position or perspective on God and the calling of where I serve may have shifted - God remains God. What is twenty years from God's perspective? A blink - a breath? 

Time is our reality. Days, week, month, years and down to the second - we are structured in time. But time is not what we really struggle with. Our real struggle is treating each day as a new beginning and seeing each moment for what is possible instead of as we always have seen it. 

Each day is new - if we are open and creative enough to see it.

Over the last two years these gifts of creativity and relationship have been at work in my own faith community. We are becoming intentional in trying to re-vision this familiar place into seeing it as it really is - new every morning. Our creativity has led us to paint community murals, re-open an old parsonage for coffee and conversation every Friday, and now are holding a once a month community open mic and food night. These efforts are small, but if I think back just one year none of these relational and creative gifts were a reality - yet.

This makes me ponder, if these are the changes we've seen in a few years of thinking and living from this relational and creative position... what is possible today, what is possible tomorrow?

We are thankful for these gifts from God and are excited to see what will be on our next horizon. We are a community of Lutheran Christians that lean into the grace and forgiveness of God so that we are freed to serve our neighbor. Our practice is relational and creative, but we are not perfect. 

But then again faithful practice is not perfect - it's practice.


(First Lutheran Church of Jamestown is located at 120 Chander Street, Jamestown NY. You can also visit our church outreach page here at First House - True Mission.)


Tim Irwin said...

Thanks for the wonderful article, Tara. I grew up in Erie, PA and I'm now living in the Pacific Northwest in a suburb of Portland, OR. I remember going to Church of God youth camp on the shores of Lake Chautauqua near Jamestown. Now I'm trying to figure out parish ministry and faithful presence (or even practice) in a suburban setting. Your article gave me food for thought. Thanks to Paul Sparks for sharing it.

Tara Lamont said...

Tim Irwin - Thank you for reading and the encouragement to keep on keeping on. So glad we have the connections established because of Parish Collective's efforts!