Everyone Is Welcome
Saturday night our church building hosted Horse Thief, which is an up-and-coming Oklahoma band. They asked and we agreed to allow them to use our building as a venue so they could play a free show and record for an upcoming big gig at SXSW in Austin.
This all started when Tyler Hopkins asked Bobby if he could start a singer songwriters series in Midtown and if our church might be willing to host it. He said that bands and artists sometimes get tired of playing at 1am in smokey bars where everyone is drunk and no one is listening. He thinks that both artists and their audience might sometimes enjoy a listening room with an earlier start and a tamer atmosphere so everyone could hear the songs themselves. He asked us because we’re friends. I think he trusted us to get it. We trusted him to respect the space.
That has grown and will continue to grow. People came and loved our church building and I think artists felt like we were kind to them. We didn’t have a ton of rules. We don’t want things to get broken or stolen, but we understand that not everything will be perfect. We’d love it if people treated our space well, and they have. Parking can be a hassle and we don’t want to annoy the neighbors. We want to obey the laws and make sure the guests who come think of those around them and not just themselves.
We’ve been able to talk to people about Christ and his church because we have a reason to – we’re in a project together. They ask us questions just like we ask them. We ask about their history and their signs and their symbols. They ask us to explain the rooster logo. We hear them say they haven’t been inside a church in a long, long time. They hear our story of faith and life, and they tell us theirs. We’re invited into a friendship together in a place that fosters a conversation and a community. They’re in our space. We’re in theirs. We’re listening to them express themselves and their passion, and they return the favor.
People are surprised about this. They don’t expect the church to treat them well or even baseline kind. They’ve been hurt. They’ve been banished. They’ve been misunderstood. They’ve been judged. They’re used to fundamentalism. They can’t believe they might be allowed to drink a beer anywhere around a church, much less inside.
Since we started City Pres, we’ve been asking what we might to do reach out to our city. Our simple oft-repeated statement is Love God Love People Love the City. We have said over and over again that we didn’t want to come in and act like we have it all together. Instead we wanted to try to get involved in the rhythms of our city, to work where work was needed and help those who are already doing things. We haven’t started many of our own initiatives because we wanted to support those who are already doing the work, to come alongside those who have been here so long and so well.
We’ve been wondering what some of our place might be. It feels like they need some of our help at Emerson High School with good work they’re doing and have done. It feels like we have a place in the growing, active, changing culture of making Midtown, Heritage, Mesta, Gatewood, Classen Ten Penn a better place. There are other ways we can be involved and we’re continuing forward.
Being gracious hosts to these bands and friends is another way. It may cost us sometimes. It may cost us a chair or two. There will be complaints. There will be misunderstandings. We’ll be misunderstood as we invite sinners into our building to connect with each other, to sing songs, to see each other, to drink alcohol, to listen and wonder and learn and enjoy. On Saturday night, 500 people came to see Horse Thief, Pageantry, and to see Chad’s art (incredible!). I think we’re friends with Cameron now. Right, Cameron? We’ve made friends with others, and maybe we can sit down and have dinner together when their isn’t a crazy concert about to take place.
That sounds an awful lot like Sunday morning. Sinners are invited to participate, to connect, to wonder, to bring their doubt and worry, to take the bread and wine in faith or consider why they won’t, and to connect to something much bigger than themselves. It sounds a lot like what we’re trying to do to love God, love people and love the city. We love our building and we find God present here. In many ways. Unexpected ways. Even on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. Everyone is welcome. We’ve always said that. We hope to see you again here or at a concert somewhere or at the coffee shop or working together to make our city a better place or even you might find yourself unexpectedly at church again.
Here are a few links to see what others are saying: