Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goldilocks & The Good Fit

Three bowls of porridge.
Three wooden chairs.
Three beds.

Of all options available, only one bowl of porridge, one wooden chair, one bed was the good fit that made Goldilocks feel welcome, feel at home, comfortable. I've been thinking a lot about Goldilocks lately as I nurse Yael in the middle of the evenings, go about our day with anticipation for what new relationships or adventures may come our way. Most recently, as we have sought out a new spiritual home in Beckley.

When Jake & I returned to the US after our year over seas we were not quite sure if we wanted to return to the tradition of attending church. It was a difficult spiritual time for the both of us and what we believed we needed most at that time was to rest and seek out spiritual support from outside the church, as we had come to know it.

This resolution lasted a total of 3 weeks until we decided to give it a go and seek out a spiritual home. Soon we found ourselves attending a Presbyterian congregation downtown Chicago. With engaging music and an upper loft to call our own (with the others who were trying to hide away) Grace Chicago was a good fit for the five(ish) months we attended. We could sneak in, receive, let go, and sneak out. No one was the wiser. We were greeted and welcomed a total of two times and although we made efforts to build a few relationships, with the exception of one - they just weren't good fits. We were too raw and they (the church and those we met) were too adapted. We were a mess and knew we needed more. More accountability, more welcoming, more spiritual connectedness, more of Jesus through others.

Enter Wicker Park Grace (WPG). If you are a frequent visitor here you know the impact that Wicker Park Grace has made in our lives. From the first Sunday evening we came to worship we have been welcomed consistently, even when we weren't welcoming ourselves, were at our worst emotionally and/or spiritually or before they began to know how truly messed up Jake & I are.

See, this is why we fell in love with our spiritual community at WPG - they represented Jesus to us. From the parishioners to the services - each element of our relationship with WPG offered us grace, accountability, love and friendship. So much so that it was only contagious to want to pass it on by loving others who entered in, welcoming the strangers, supporting the elderly, feeding the hungry. It became a part of who we have become (both singular & plural).

We fell so deeply in love with WPG that we decided we wanted nothing more than to have Yael baptized through this congregation - accepted forever into this community.

Welcome Goldilocks. When we moved to Beckley we knew it was going to be an exciting (read: difficult) challenge to enter into a congregation as we had experienced and come to love in WPG. Yet, I was up to the challenge. With a knowledge that not attending a church would only hurt us we began to seek out a new spiritual home that fit.

First bowl of porridge: Our first Sunday afternoon in Beckley we attended a "Christmas Around the World" festival at the local Catholic church. What a great time we had! Receiving tastes (both figuratively and tangibly) of Christmas from over 10 different countries - we had a great time meeting the self professed "only Bolivian" woman, the only Syrian family and Philippiano families in Beckley. At first I was sold at going back (and still may) but when I thought of attending a Sunday Catholic mass by myself (which may happen now & again due to Jake's schedule) I felt strangely uncomfortable - not an unwelcoming uncomfortable - simply a personal sense of uncomfortably. This bowl of porridge was too hot.

The week following our move to Beckley we just happen to get lucky with religious services abundant due to the Christmas Holiday. What a delight for a church seeker like me to be able to hit up four, yes - four, religious services in ONE week!

Second bowl of porridge: Wesleyan Chapel - who promptly shared with us upon entering in the front doors, that they were indeed independent and not Wesleyan (?). Okay. This bowl of porridge was too cold the moment it was set down on the table.

First chair: Episcopal Church - on Christmas Eve we participated in a service full of grace and liturgy that filled our hearts with great anticipation for the celebration of the birth of our Love, Jesus. Yet, this chair just felt too small for us to fit comfortably into.

It was at this time that Jake & I had an honest conversation and time of reflection about what we were specifically looking for in a spiritual home & community. We came to find that in our lives and in the space we're bent toward, the single most important factor we were looking forward to was becoming part of a welcoming congregation where we felt comfortable to bring anyone and everyone to church with us, knowing full well that they would be welcomed in the fullest sense.

With that knowledge we decided to attend the free Christmas dinner being hosted by the Methodist Temple on Christmas afternoon. Upon entering Yael was delighted upon (sometimes in a wonderful way, other times in the most annoying manner), we received a gracious (and very tasty!) dinner and we sat, alone, for quite sometime. That was until we resolved to take it upon ourselves and welcome others, in true WPG style. By the end of suppertime we had made great friends with a former Unitarian Minister, Geo, and his partner, Thomas. We also had a wonderful time welcoming Rose into our lives, a woman who has been volunteering at the Christmas supper for over 10 years but does not hold any religious beliefs.

Still, this chair felt too big. And yes, we did exchange numbers with Geo & Thomas.

The following morning Jake needed to work so in a true West Virginia blizzard Yael & I made our way to the PC USA church located in downtown Beckley. I was smitten with them at first site of webpage - they are quite involved in the community by hosting regular gatherings for the elderly, volunteering at the local soup kitchen, amongst other actions centered around welcoming others.

Upon entering Rita came to introduce herself, followed by a line of others within the congregation welcoming both Yael & I. The service was beautiful and message pertinent. What really sold me was the sensation that I could bring the homeless man who walks Hwy. 3 to this church and he would indeed feel welcome.

This porridge tasted just right. This chair fit. I felt as though Jesus could come here and feel truly welcomed.

So this coming Sunday we will attend as a family and see if the bed fits right as well. Because, like Goldilocks, we all need a place to rest. Whether it's spiritually, emotionallyor physically we need a place to rest where we feel welcomed - a important factor for a good fit.


Robin said...

Love to you, Jessica, Jake, and Yael. I hope you find the fit you need. Looking forward to hearing of your adventures.

matthias said...

What a wonderful post! It can really be hard to find a congregation where we feel at home, but I am glad that you've found one to try out, and I hope it becomes a spiritual home for you three.

Nanette Sawyer said...

Love you guys! I am praying you find a beautiful, loving church home for yourselves. Yay for you, welcoming others when you were the new visitors!

PrincessMax said...

Gorgeous. And so well written. Thank you for sharing.