Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Things I Love About My Church - #1

I've been on the staff at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church for over nine years.  There's a lot of cool stuff about this church, and, though I can't possibly share all that's great about WHLC, I'd like to blog about a few of my favorite things.  For example...

Men's Fellowship Group

It began over a year ago when a new Bible Study for women was established.  The participants took turns meeting in each other's homes for food and conversation each month.  After a while their husbands decided to get together for their own sort of small group.  Instead of an official church-sanctioned Bible Study, they opted for dinner and drinks at a local establishment.  A few months later, they invited me to join them (which was very kind, since my wife is part of a different Bible Study).

The group consists of about 2/3 recent empty nesters (with children in their early-mid 20s) and 1/3 grandparents of teenagers.  Much of the conversation centers on current events and/or whatever happens to be on someone's mind.  It's a diverse group, and opinions are not hard to come by.  Inevitably, the conversation will to religion, church culture, and the Bible.  All of these men have been leaders in the church for 20+ years (some more than twice that).  They are faithful in worship, prayer, generosity, and study...and yet they come together to wrestle with questions, doubts, and curiosities.

The most beautiful part of this group is the deep and abiding affection (dare I call it "love") that these men have for one another.  They root for different sports teams, live in different parts of town, work for a wide array of vocations, vote for different presidents, and express their faith differently...but they care about each other enough to engage in the kind of conversations they may not be able to have anywhere else.

For example, I arrived a few minutes late tonight, so most of the people had already gathered.  Before I sat down, I was asked about my opinion the previous night's congregational meeting (where, among other things, we voted to move forward with the design phase of a $3.2 million dollar building project).  How did I think it went?  What surprised me?  Am I excited about the building project?  From there, we shifted to the Newtown, CT tragedy.  We debated the nuance between the presence of "the devil" and the presence of "independent evil" in the world.  Does the devil exist?  Is there a hell?  If so, does the person who killed all of those children belong there?  What about mental health issues?  Did the shooter need help and, therefore, does he deserve our sympathy instead of our hatred?  Do we want to be in heaven if murderers are there?  Should people with mental health problems have access to guns?  Should anyone have access to the kind of guns used in Newtown?  Do we need stricter gun control laws?  Do we need looser gun control laws?  Where was God in the midst of the shootings?  Did this happen because teachers can't pray in school?  Is this one of the signs that the world is coming to an end?

All of this in the 20 minutes before our food arrived.

From there we engaged a variety of topics -- social media, raising children, politics, sports, and whether or not the University of Iowa should find a new president.  The group adjourned after a couple of hours, with a commitment to meet again next month.

I don't know if it's commonplace for other churches to have a group of 12-15 people who are committed to one another in the same way as this men's fellowship group.  I certainly hope so.  Sharing dinner and drinks with these people has certainly blessed my life and given me hope that civil discourse is possible in our world.