I liked it.
It was held in an art gallery just about a mile and a half away. I walked there on this beautiful spring day. Tonight was their jazz vespers event. Apparently, they spend two Sundays each month in contemplative worship (jazz or Taize vespers) and two Sundays each month having potluck dinner and discussion.
There were about ten people there: Scott, Nick, Miradi, Nai, Jhonathan, his girlfriend, a reporter, myself, Tim, the two musicians, and the pastor, Nanette. Did you catch that? The pastor is a woman.
There was a bulletin for the liturgy with the poems and scripture that would be read while the jazz waas played and the images were projected. Did you catch that? There was liturgy. River City didn't even mention that it was Pentecost, the birthday of "the church." We sat in a circle in an assortment of somewhat comfortable chairs. A lovely journal was passed around for people to write in their prayers to be prayed aloud later in the service.
Before the service started, Jhonathan had a quiet discussion with Nanette and then went over to the projector to change the timing from 40 seconds per image to 33 seconds per image, despite their casual disagreement on the matter. A couple of people asked Nanette what they were reading. It reminded me very much of my Lutheran church on Orcas in its informality. During the service, after Tim had crossed out one of the prayers and written in something different (it's possible he was writing over last week's request), he took the book over to Nanette and whispered something to her. I'm impressed that everyone seems to have a personal relationship with the pastor. I feel like I can't get either of my pastors' attention even if I jump up and down waving my arms while naked.
When I walked into the gallery, Scott asked, "Are you here for the hanging?" which made me laugh and also made me feel welcome, which was good because I was a little nervous, not really knowing what to expect, except for what I had read at their website. He gave me some freshly brewed iced tea and then took me into the other room and introduced me to some folks.
What struck me most about a lot of these people is that most of them seemed a little socially awkward. I spend so mch time with high-capacity, uber-intelligent folks who have become successful because they also had a fair amount of wit, charisma and social smoothness. Several of these folks stuttered a little, made odd jokes to break the ice and stopped the social flow with non-sequiturs. But they were super-friendly and seemed very comfortabe with themselves. I have no doubt that many of them are high-capacity and uber-intelligent. Again, they reminded me of folks from the island. I was struck with this feeling that as I got to know them, I would learn a lot from them because they seem different from me but accessible. I was very comfortable. No Beautiful People here. Most were white, most were young, but it felt diverse. Two people were some sort of Latino non-natives, one man had African American heritage, and another man had a physical deformity. In a group of 11, that's diverse. I know from the website that some folks in this community are gay and some aren't even Christian.
It looks like what I think the Kingdom of God should look like.
Their identification statement says this:
Wicker Park Grace is a welcoming community which seeks to grow in spirit, mind, and heart. Our community is centered in a generous and dynamic Christianity.
Not everyone who participates in Wicker Park Grace events is a Christian, or considers themselves a follower of Jesus, and that's okay with us. We want to be a community that is actively engaged in this diverse and beautiful world.
At the same time, some of us are on a journey of deepening our spiritual practices rooted in Christian tradition and following the teachings of Jesus. You'll see signs of this quest in most of our events, and some activities will be more deeply grounded in Christian practices.
Please feel welcome to participate in which ever events feel most comfortable and which resonate most deeply with you.
I was able to worship at this gathering, as well as being able to put myself in front of God in prayer. The latter is easy for me; the former not so much. I spoke with the pastor a little bit about my frustrations at my current church and she seemed to really care. Plus, the big news folks: she's an ordained Presbyterian minister. That means that she has training (that I trust) in how to lead a church. Her bio on the website is interesting and worth taking a look. She got a Masters of Theological Studies at Harvard before she identiified herself as a Christian. Then, she went to seminary to become a pastor. That's pretty cool, in my book. I'm always a fan of a little book learnin'.
I'm tryng not to get too excited here. I'm going to try them out for awhile before I make any big decisions. The meet on Sunday evenings so I can keep attending River City while I get to know this group of people. But that's what excites me most. The fact that twice a month they get together and just talk with one another? I might actually be known by other Christians, with all my heresies ad uncertainties and desires not to be the kind of person who thinks it's important to know who's in and who's out. Only Jess, Leah and maybe Kim actually knows me at River City. With everyone else, I have kept what I really think to myself because I don't know whether they'll still like me once I've opened my mouth.
As this church says, "grace happens." I'm hoping it happens for me here.