Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Saint Francis in the Foothills

This is our baby/dog being baptized/blessed by Rev. Lee Morrison last Sunday at Saint Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church. Lee Morrison is the Spiritual Director of the church and the officiant of our upcoming wedding.

We started going to this church a few months ago, mostly looking for an officiant. Andrew and I both come from a Lutheran background but don't feel especially churchy for what I guess are the regular reasons. That doesn't mean we've completely abandoned spirituality, though. Au contraire. (His mom calls us "Neo-Lutherans".)

When we went to Saint Francis and heard Rev. David Wilkinson speak for the first time, I was hooked for several reasons, but mostly because he worked "postmodernism" into the commentary. With articles like "St. Francis UMC of Tucson: Strange Theology Unrecognizable to Most Christian UMs" floating around the internet, I should have known I was going to love it.

It's a ministry based on inclusiveness, fragmentation, diversity and openness while at the same time being committed to unity and social justice - well, why don't you just read the mission statement.

There are basically three reasons why Andrew and I (I think I speak for both of us) find ourselves doing something we didn't foresee: going to church regularly.

1) This is a church that accepts that there are as many different paths to God as there are people. Until now, I had never been to any other church that isn't out to prove that theirs is the only true path or theirs the only true religion.

2) This is a church that was founded on the importance of breaking down church power hierarchy by giving members an active, leadership role. During the "sermon" we aren't passive receivers of the message, but rather are passed a microphone and encouraged to make the moment a two-way dialog by sharing our thoughts and feelings. Granted, this doesn't mean the power is totally balanced, but it is a happy medium for those who still feel most comfortable with a semi-traditional service set up. Not to mention, in my case, my relationship with "God" has been mostly intimate and private - much easier to blog about it than to speak about it in front of a congregation!

Speaking of power hierarchies, this church is very careful about removing as much of that turn-off language as they can. The reason why I didn't follow through with confirmation in the Lutheran church when I was a teenager? The handbook was so loaded with patriarchal language and ideology from page one that I basically gagged. (For more on this, check out this Arizona Daily Star article: "'Lord' is fading at some churches"

3) Every Sunday we've been to Saint Francis so far, Andrew and I come out feeling emotionally moved and intellectually challenged. Every time we feel the message is relevant to our lives - and frequently to something we've been discussing that same week. We walk out with a lot to talk about.

I'm not saying that I know much about the congregation yet or that I think the leaders are flawless or that the theology is way. That would be dangerous to think or say. But I do believe that we all have a spiritual appetite that we need to feed to stay healthy. There are many ways to satisfy one's spirit, and St. Francis is one of those worth trying.

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