Friday, December 11, 2015
Stories from the body of Christ - Chris Wimmer
In addition to posting news about events and opportunities to serve and worship, we would like to use this space to tell stories that come from fellow Christians in the D.C. area. Here, Chris Wimmer, the former youth pastor at Crossroads United Methodist Church in Ashburn, tells one story of faith and faithful doubting.
In my seven years at Crossroads United Methodist Church one of the most transforming experiences came in 2009 when I journeyed with a group of leaders in the Crossroads community to New Mexico to experience the Emerging Church Conference and the wisdom of Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren and others. I was exposed to a new way of following Jesus, a way that says, “there is no one way”; a way where all expressions are valued and collectively the ecclesia thrives. This experience marked an important milestone on my journey; the Christ life is not only a theological belief but a missiological practice. It’s a life that transforms the inward core of our being and everything we stand for and live out. It transforms our homes, our communities, and the strangers we encounter.
This for me might have been the beginning of seeing everyone's story as sacred, welcomed, expected, and an important insight into the movement of the Spirit in the world regardless of theological belief, regardless of religion or not, race, sexual orientation, or anything else.
A few months ago we celebrated the milestone of Confirmation, a time for adolescents along with their parents to experience in community an environment where every question is welcomed, every journey is welcomed, and at the end every decision is welcomed. Confirmation experiences in the Christian church around the world often end with an adolescent standing before their community confirming their faith in Jesus Christ and being welcomed "officially" into their church family. At Crossroads we celebrate the decision not to be confirmed as much as the decision to be confirmed. See for us...everyone's story is sacred, every journey is sacred, and in fact those who decided not be confirmed probably received more personal acknowledgment than those who did.
We had one girl with tears streaming from her face sit with her mother the night before our first Confirmation gathering sharing with her mom that she didn't think she was ready for Confirmation. She shared about her doubts, her questions, and in complete authenticity and vulnerability sat with her mother explaining how she had been holding on to this burden because she didn't want to disappoint her mom and dad. What happen in the weeks to follow was one of my most beautiful experiences in ministry.
The girl decided to go through our five week Confirmation experience (yes...only five weeks, there's a reason for that) and at the end decided not to be confirmed. On the day her friends were being confirmed her mother and father took her on a gorgeous hike through the rolling hills of western Loudoun County where her parents read the most moving blessing they wrote for their daughter. Encouraging her in her journey, assuring her that they were always present. It was not a time of convincing conversion but a sacred honoring of this young girls life.
Our approach to ministry is simply this...honor the sacredness of every persons story, including your own...past...present...future.
It's from this starting place that empathy consumes us and the Spirit directs us.