Is There Really a Church Like That?

March 6, 2012 @ 04:31 pm by Jacqui Lewis

When I was a little girl in Chicago, we used to watch the PTL Club, and sing along as people on television "praised the Lord." I was too young to know if their theology matched mine (what was theology?). I knew the music was different than that in my Baptist church on Sunday morning, but I liked it anyway. The people seemed joyful, and it was something, along with Ed Sullivan, that my parents let us watch.

My parents are still in Chicago, and so every time 30 Good Minutes replays any of the few shows I have taped for their lovely television ministry, I get calls from them and their friends. "We saw you on TV!" It is so fascinating to think of the way media allows us to experience and reexperience these kinds of moments, and to have the echo again and again in our lives.

Our new website and our media team do SO much outreach and evangelism: sharing sermons and clips of music through the Internet; posting our entire worship celebrations so that people who are all around the globe (yes, the globe!) can see them; streaming worship live at 11:15 so that our members out of town and our friends who have not yet come through our doors can worship with us in a virtual way. It is amazing to me! Keith Poss told me last Sunday that he keeps showing his friends the video we made about Leading the Change and his friends say, "Is there really a church like that?"

Yes, there is, thanks be to God and to all of you who make Middle Church--Middle Church.

A few weeks ago I got a letter from a woman named Sandra who actually saw one of those 30 Good Minutes reruns, and then began to look around our website. She says what she found there changed her life. She said I could share with you what she wrote. Before I do, I invite you to really spend some time on our website. Invite your friends to stream worship with us on Sunday mornings. Like us on Facebook. Like the pages of your clergy. Come check out the new evening worship, Art and Soul, at 6 pm on Sundays. Stop by SoulFood on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 pm for a midweek refresher course on miracles. And Feel God's Love beaming down on you right now.

Dear Reverend Lewis,

God's grace is manifested in unexpected ways. A couple of weeks ago, late on a Sunday afternoon while I distractedly turned on the TV, I looked up to discover a beaming face sharing the story of a most amazing church. I was intrigued and after the broadcast, searched the web for Middle Church and was delighted to find a collection of video and audio services and sermons. At the time, I was in a rather profound funk and wilderness place, having been unemployed for 2 years and just received notice that a job I was vying for was canceled. Didn't seem like a propitious beginning to a New Year. And I felt quite angry at God's seemingly long periods of silence on this issue perhaps even bordering on forsaken and forgotten - not me so much but my plight and ability to make a living.

Yet I was drawn to Middle Collegiate Church and the spirit exuded by staff, choirs, and congregants. And I began a marathon of watching videos that evening that extended into the next day and has continued - albeit not with that same time commitment. It is such a warm, welcoming, hospitable and also challenging atmosphere. You embody God's loving presence and radiate God's love while preaching the gospel and calling us to step forward, step out in faith. The church's commitment to inclusiveness of faith, ethnicity, gender, SES, - all of humanity - is wonderful. And the joy is palpable during the services. The gospel choirs' Christmas concert was beautiful and deeply engaging. And later I found their rendition of "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" so encouraging and uplifting that I have played it many times. And the traditional choir's pieces are amazingly rendered to transport you into the heart of God.

The church's commitment to providing outreach to those marginalized is encouraging in the journey to promote social justice. And I appreciate the use of the arts with the puppets and integrating different approaches to spirituality such as mindfulness - meditation - the whole array you offer. You bring together the inward and outward calling. As one who wants to embody the gospel call to love God, others, self, to seek justice, and walk humbly, I thank you so much for helping me on that path. Your ministry, church, all of you, have lightened my load and given me inspiration - literally - I can breathe deeper. And I have been richly blessed.

I will continue to tune in to the weekly services - if not by streaming then by video or audio - and be eager to share the experience and grow together with you. I'd love to some day attend the services but I live in Chicago so that won't be happening anytime soon. And you are right in your description of having a uniquely diverse church. Many churches in Chicago integrate regarding gender issues but not so much on ethnicity. And there are many wonderful churches here promoting social justice that are vibrant with the spirit - Trinity is one that comes to mind - but the congregation is fairly uniform in terms of ethnicity. Which responds to another need - I think. Anyhow, I digress.

Thank you again for your ministry - it is a message of love - a message of hope.

Peace and Blessings,

Sandra

About This Blog

Preparing ethical leaders for a just society. Posts by Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister.

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