Grateful … for churches

Leading up to Thanksgiving, I’m sure a lot of us are beginning to – or preparing to begin to – count our blessings. I am a blessed man, and one of my biggest problems is having too many blessings to properly appreciate and thank God for. (I’m not complaining! Just warning myself of the danger of complacency and ingratitude.) Just in the last few days …
Sunday I had the opportunity to worship at an inner-city Pentecostal church in Baltimore – Dynamic Deliverance Cathedral. I was a guest of my friend Doug, who is part of the church’s pastoral team. The music was hoppin’ and joyful. Bishop Adams’ sermon on Jacob wrestling with the angel was true and honest and inspiring. And when people came forward at the end for prayer, I saw in tear-stained faces the meaning of “healing community.” The church serves a poor neighborhood – many of the folks there were in serious crisis before the current economic crisis hit. It’s a place where you can come clean about your addictions and other problems. As a pale-skinned guy, I felt completely accepted and welcomed … It did my soul good to be there.
Then yesterday I was with the Baltimore-Washington conference of United Methodists. Hundreds of enthusiastic, committed, hopeful pastors … a good racial mix, and an encouraging number of younger leaders as well … another beautiful spirit of welcome.
Then this morning I met with a wonderful young pastor who has just survived one of those nightmare seasons of ministry. The wisdom and character that she has derived from the last couple years are downright humbling and inspiring – she’s become better, not bitter, through what she’s been through. And now, her church is entering a new chapter with tremendous possibilities.
People have a lot of criticisms of church, and churches do have their share of problems, but this week, I’m grateful for all that’s going right. Because week by week, from inner city storefronts to tall-steeple cathedrals and everything in between, there really are a lot of good things happening. Thanks be to God!