I could start with the disclaimer that City Pres is not perfect, but you already know this. Even if you’ve never been, this is inevitably true. If you have been, then you will have realized that is it full of people and therefore – not perfect.
I could write a blog post on things we need to change or fix, but I think our pastors probably get more than their fair-share of well-meaning, ah… criticism… from parishioners who are unhappy with the drapes. The chairs. The music. The programming (or lack thereof.) The heat.
Instead I’m going to tell you some things I love about City Pres and our session. So here you go, in no particular order.
I love the music. For too long I was part of a denomination that exclusively sang the happy-clappy, Jesus-is-my-buddy, real-Christians-have-nothing-to-cry-about songs. But unfortunately, everything is NOT awesome. Some of us have sin and darkness in our lives that threatens to overwhelm. Jesus is our best and only hope. So singing about looking to Him as we tread the verge of Jordan is not depressing for me – it’s the high point that makes the rest of the week make sense. I love that our church celebrates the victory won for us by Jesus but still acknowledges that in our numbered days on this earth we remain pilgrims in a barren land.
I love that we don’t have Sunday school yet. (Bear with me. I get that this is totally personal and you may disagree. But that’s another thing I love about City Pres – we can disagree and still love each other.) My kids are still little; the youngest still naps and wears diapers. Every week that we make it through an hour and a half of church I believe there has been divine intervention. Adding more to that would be so very hard for us. I love that I can come for church and not feel like half a member because someone’s Sunday-morning-meltdown required that we miss Sunday school again.
I love our old building, even with its A/C issues. I don’t want others to suffer in the heat – those robes that Doug and Bobby wear must be miserable. But there’s a part of me that selfishly likes to be able to wear a sundress in the summer without also having to carry a winter coat so that I don’t freeze inside the building. And looking around the sanctuary as people fan themselves sort of reminds me of movie scenes set in the deep south in the summer. (For the record I would be equally happy with a cold sanctuary in the winter. I’m weird like that.)
I love that our church pursues radical honesty. I hear about others’ struggles and victories and failures and vulnerabilities and I am drawn closer to them and closer to Christ in that hearing. It’s all about grace; we receive it from Christ in abundance and we pass it on to those around us. We are all in this together. And only when we get to know each other – wounds and brokenness and all – can we truly love each other. I am so glad that the keeping-people-at-arm’s-length approach is antithetical to what we pursue at City Pres.
Finally, I love our elders – teaching and ruling – and their families. I always come back to the battlefield hospital analogy, because I believe that is what church is. I love that the men of our session have stepped up to the high calling of running the triage while we wait for the surgeon to arrive. I can only imagine the time required for this and the potential for anxiety and fatigue. Frankly, I suspect it takes a great deal of faith and grace to stay that course. I love their wives who I suspect are the strongest people I’ve ever met.
I could say more. I could talk about the willingness of City Pres to host concerts, share our building with a church plant from another denomination, the vision for the diaconate team… even just the simple freedom to speak my mind in this forum. But I’ll stop here for now. The punch line is this: focusing on how I love my church makes me grateful to God and eager to share it with the people of my city.