I tend to cringe when someone tells me they’ve found the “perfect” church. I don’t disagree that they have probably joined a church that helps them feel nurtured and loved. Nor do I believe that their church is not a wonderful community. They’re blessed to have discovered a place where God is alive, where the scriptures are proclaimed, and the sacraments celebrated.
But no way have they found the perfect church.
As an old joke goes, if the church were perfect you couldn’t belong.
At Woodlawn Chapel Presbyterian Church, we know we are not a perfect church. That’s not possible, nor is it our desire. Instead, we try to be living, loving, and learning family in Christ. Our core values of spirituality, hospitality, and service/leadership are expressed by the words of our mission statement:
As God’s people, we are called to worship, to pray, to teach, to help and to celebrate. Our momentum for this mission is sustained by God through prayer and the giving and sharing of time, talents, and treasure.
Instead of being perfect, we are working to be authentic. We pray we are accepting, both of ourselves and others. We confess our sins to each other because we know that we’re all just a bit like the toys Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer encountered in that old animated movie. Rudolph stumbles upon a Jack-in-the-Box named Charlie, a boat that doesn’t float, and a train with square wheels. “We’re misfit toys,” they tell Rudolph. “We’re all misfits,” says Rudolph. And thank God that we are.
Not long ago I heard that the odds of children who have autism or other medical and emotional difficulties never attending church are twice as high compared to children who do not have those conditions. Likewise, families whose children have ADHD, depression, and learning disabilities are also less likely to be church goers. There are a lot of churches trying hard to be perfect by trying to exclude those who do not meet the standard definition of perfect.
Jesus’ ministry was spent with the misfits, outcasts, and other less-than-perfect individuals nonetheless who yearned to be gathered into a community. I believe that remains the calling of the church, and it is my prayer that our journey toward being an authentic community continues.