Outside of the church


This morning I got up around my usual time, 7:30ish, and decided that I would spend the morning in this little town (compared to Berlin). I walked the dogs a little longer and farther than I normally do this morning because the morning beckoned me to do so.

I would go to a few places that I have been meaning to go, drink some coffee on the sidewalk, and walk around to really enjoy a morning out and about here.  We have about five more days out here so it was about time.  I am also definitely feeling the tug back to summertime in the city.  For now, I want to meander and will probably meander in the woods again this afternoon with a friend who is coming to visit for the day.

I started in the little bakery across the park because they have the best coffee so far that we have had here plus if I am honest I am in love with their “Zimt Schnecke” or cinnamon rolls as I know them. I took my book with me and sat out at the tables on the sidewalk and sipped and read and watched people.

I left the bakery at 9:20ish and wandered to this beautiful central church that I have been really wanting to go into and pray.  The church is Maria-Magdelen Kirsche and is the major Protestant church in town.  From the outside it looks so beautiful and I couldn’t wait to go inside and this was the morning to do it.  I wandered over but by the time I reached the church I realized that it didn’t open until 10am.  So I found a bench right out in front and pulled out my book again. I am reading this gorgeous book called, “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  Our hosts left it out for me to read and I am really treating it like a delicious treat. Kimmerer is an amazing writer that delights my mind and in the meantime reminds me of reconnecting to the world. I sometimes re read whole paragraphs because I enjoyed it so much.  This morning was no different as I read about our relationship to the land and our relationship to each other being so entwined.  I found myself in deep prayer around this outside of the church.  I watched a few people pass by and then the pastor came to open the doors.  But I wasn’t ready to go in. I waited until the end of the chapter and then pulled myself up to go in.

It is a beautiful church on the inside with lovely art and interesting history.  The windows are pale colors that accentuate the art and the front piece is really interesting. The wood is warm and old and carries tradition with it.  The pastor was welcoming into the space and I wandered for a minute but realized that I didn’t need to sit and stay.  I had spent my time in meditation just outside of the church, close by but I didn’t need to be inside of it today.

As I walked away to continue on my morning I realized that some of what I felt this morning was what I have been feeling lately here in this place.  While I still fully consider myself a pastor in vocation and identity, I have found myself pondering more and more what it means to be just outside of the church.

I have a few ideas that I am working on that allow me to pastor to those who just can’t find themselves in the church buildings any more. For some reason (I can actually name quite a few) going into the church doesn’t fit their life, their view of community, their theology or what they may be comfortable in and yet there are soooo many people yearning for connection to one another and to a larger view of the world, to God.  When people ask me what I do here I still immediately respond, “I am a pastor and I do these other things too because I don’t have a church here,” and yet perhaps I am realizing more and more that sitting just outside of the church and pastoring is perhaps the church I am looking for as well.  It was more fulfilling in that moment to meditate in the world rather than finding myself inside a built space…how Celtic of me, right John Phillip? And this is not to say that I don’t still hold value with tradition and the spaces of church…we need it all but perhaps the world is shifting and we need to catch up a little bit. In my experience, I haven’t found that catching up happening in the church buildings a lot of the time.

Let the journey continue in finding where God compels us next.


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