My therapist called it ‘walking into the den of the lion that mauled you’. I just called it scary.
I had decided to visit All Saints Presbyterian Church and I wanted to pass it by him before I went.
He face broadened in that wide gentle smile that at once puts me at ease and want to beat him with the office manager.
“Why are you scared?”
I looked at him with his smile and started to reach for Kimberly.
“you’re talking about lions and mauling and you want to know …”
“Why you are scared….”
He was still smiling as I aimed Kimberly at his kidneys.
* * *
In case you want to know , I was scared because I was going to a traditional Presbyterian service:
…that was a traditional Presbyterian service
…in the high ticket part of town
…and that was founded by folks that even I had heard of
and that means dressing up. Dressing up was scary enough… all I could think of was the swamp rot I was going to get from having to wear pantyhose.
I did not want to dress up for this. But I didn’t want to look like a bum either. They would know that I didn’t belong there and that I was starting over. Besides, (oh Lord, I can hear ’them’ now) “one would think that the love of God would mean that you would put a bit more effort when you can to worship right?” Right?
I didn’t know, so I just decided to spilt the difference and wear makeup and 4 inch boots. When all else fails, vent your inner amazon…
And this is why it took me so long to go to a traditional service. Because when I think about going to a traditional service, I don’t think about God, getting closer to God, what I will learn, or communion.
Instead, I go back to my days of [Cult]Church, where you had to look, act and smell the part or you were not righteous and pitied. The skirt or dress had to be sharp, the shoes and the bag had to match, the makeup was right and tight and you had to wear department store perfume (they know what that Revco shite smelled like). You wanted them to say “That is a young sister that will marry an elder!” whenever you walked by…
That isn’t what church and being a disciple is about.
I learned that from the kindness and support of folks who helped me come back. They showed me by their actions that grace is inclusive and kind, and the effort to come and be fed is much more important than the effort to look righteous.
And the folks at All Saints reinforced that. And it began at the door.
I should point out All Saints started as a UT church plant and grew into a church that is located in the high rent area of West Austin. To give you an idea, this is the area that Michael “Dude, you’re getting a” Dell and Richard “Lord British” Garriet own homes. This is where money is. And to be sure I am nowhere near where money is, so the intimidation factor was high. And I was intimidated.
I should not have been.
1) The church services are in the gym of a private school. Alternative sites always put me at ease as they remind me that God can be found anywhere. This group, at least in my mind, was more concerned with congregating together and living the life of discipleship than the size of the sanctuary. Or that it had bleachers.
2) One of pastors was at the door and was more than happy to help an ebony amazon with a very lost look on her face.
Imagine the scene: You are a 5’9”, auburn haired pastor standing in the lobby, looking around, talking to folks and then a 6’2” (yes, she is in heels, but that isn’t the point), plus sized, ebon woman with what look like bracelets hanging from her ears walks up to you, looking lost and scared.
What do you do?
a) Ignore her and hope she finds who she is looking for, or at least the donut table.
b) Walk away and have one of the women introduce themselves
Or do you…
c) Walk up with a smile, introduce yourself, welcome her, show her where everything is, then ask her about herself as you walk her to the donut table, where you tell her what time the service starts and where to sit for the best view.
Guess which one Tim Frickenschmidt did… (pssst! …choose ‘C’!)
3) The donut/bagel table was ALL wabi sabi… I mean it was to’e up! Not everything was in its place, neat and abnormally precise. There were bagels and donuts laying around, schmear in 4 different locations, the knives was under one of the boxes and people were walking around getting what they needed and leaving the rest. They were too busy laughing, chatting, introducing themselves and inviting me to play volleyball to worry about everything being in place. It was a place of communion, the gathering together for encouragement and healing (and carbs).
4) I was immediately co-oped and adopted. They introduced themselves, ask questions about me and about how I found them, walked me in the sanctuary and offered seats next to them. I was patiently walked through the liturgy and signaled when to stand, sit and with kindness (they saw the boots and immediately showed me their Crocs) and was gleefully told that the communion wine was really wine (“knock it back (tee hee)”).
I could talk about the sermon and the music and things like that, but I knew the sermon series on Exodus was top notch; I have been following it on their website. Every church works on their worship service and the folk/blues played here was wonderful. But that was expected and could happen no matter the quality of the people there…
What matters, the reason we go and the reason that we stop going have more to do with feeling that we are welcome and wanted. The congregation is the physical representation of the arms of God. They embrace, support and guide. And I am sure, if I had asked before I came, they would have told me to wear my Crocs.
Thanks be to God.