Colonial Church has taken October to celebrate 500 years of the Protestant Reformation. We've remembered Martin Luther, and the "priesthood of we believers."
It's been a month of discerning as a church the ways God may be calling us to be re-formed. Guest preachers have come to give us background and fresh insights on the Reformation, and some of the ways "church" needs to be "re-formed" today.
Our preacher today was a tall, willowy African-American woman University volleyball player, mother of two young children, and pastor of a "church plant" call Lighthouse Covenant Church in north Minneapolis. She's a protege' of Professor Kyle Roberts, former professor at Bethel Seminary and new Dean at United Theological Seminary, and a member of Colonial Church.
Dee McIntosh moved gracefully on the platform, speaking from Peter's Second Letter, in short, almost stacatto sentences on the crisis in the church today. The crisis is that statistically 59% of young people growing up in the church are leaving, and won't come back.
The reason, she says, is the church itself: Us. Who don't make the young feel welcome. Who don't offer a good reason why they should come back. She repeats, "That's the crisis."
One thing that needs to happen, she says, is for churches to become "confessing" churches. Churches willing to say "sorry" for their self-centeredness. Sorry for being more interested in themselves, and the old way, instead of reaching out to the visitors and welcoming them with love.
I thought of the 400 high school kids who came eagerly each Sunday night during the 1980's to be together with each other and the leaders who loved them.
I thought of the young woman who is an Assistant Attorney General in a western state, who writes each year to say, "I am trying every day to live by the faith that I was taught in my growing up years at Colonial."
Nor is she alone. And yet, the times have changed. We are a self-centered society, that has turned inward, and grown cynical about church, and things of faith.
As I grow older, I find myself longing for the beloved community. I find I need to be among the believers. I pray that for all people, young and old.
After church today we went to the after-session in the Hearth Room. Kyle Roberts was presenting our winsome guest preacher for a question and answer time. My Molly went straight to the front row. I resisted.
Then suddenly, as questions were invited, her hand went up and she spoke out of the deep pain she feels over slavery in America, and the wounds it still inflicts on our society. She was speaking to Kyle and to the young guest minister, earnestly and in tears. I knew what she was saying. She would not let a minute pass without herself saying "Sorry" for slavery, and going to her knees before the two young leaders.
With great grace the young woman minister touched her and, I believe, forgave her.
In a sense she was forgiving us all. For this little, white-haired senior woman had repented before the stranger, and incidentally shown that Colonial Church is itself a "confessing" church.
They did not know that this woman, at the call of God, had done this all over the Genocide countries of Africa. "Why have you brought me here?" she had asked God. "To ask forgiveness for what you and your people of the West did to divide these people from each other," He answered.
She has been faithful to that, all the years since. And her daring has marked the whole ministry of the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation, as we have seen that to open the door to forgiveness and healing, we ourselves must come to the deep work, by ministering on our knees.
It was moving for us all, an act itself, of re-formation.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES