House for All Sinners and Saints

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    I am the mission developer for House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Check out our site for more info.

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  • Chris Enstad
    The blog of a dad, husband, Lutheran pastor, emerging, failing, conversing, confessing.
  • Ian Mobsby
    Ian is the Anglican Priest at Moot in London.
  • Matt Stone
    This is a great blog from Down Under which explores Christianity and religious pluralism
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    Like Ward Cleaver with tattoos
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    Ian is the priest of the MayBe community in Oxford...I think he's pretty stinkin' cool.
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    cool chick...check her out
  • MayBe
    This is a great emerging church community we spent time with in Oxford. Their website is well worth a look, especially the page "the spirit of MayBe"
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    If I'm the Sarcastic Lutheran, he's certainly the Sarcastic Anglican...
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    This is a really groovey new church plant in NorthEast Minneapolis, amazing jazz liturgy. Their website is well worth checking out

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« Blogoversary | Main | my sermon »


Amen. As a religious satirist, this whole "judge that ye not judge" biz makes me nutso. I make my living critiquing the foibles of the church and I'm on my knees a fair amount asking for guidance so I don't cross that line between making fun of faithless follies and dunking a fellow fallen sinner until he yells for mercy.

Like you, I realized I wasn't cut out to be a pastor because the globally needy types drive me bonkers. Also, I have no tolerance for church meetings and all that garbarge - bless those who can do it though.

One thing that helps me is the realization if God can love a smart ass like me, then the least I can do is to "try" to do likewise. Emphasis on the word try cause my big mouth gets me into more trouble than I care to admit.

Love this thinking although I actually PREFER to hang out with damaged people. Emotionally neediness is nuanced rather than an umbrella chanracteristic. There ARE those who try to suck the energy out of more hardy types but, there are also emotionally needy types who heal themselves and others by sharing their pain. It's great to hear you voice the constant challenge of loving others. We are told that the fight is worth the effort though, eh?

Gail - excellent points. I have problems being in a room with too many perfect people because it's all so phony I want to scream. I much perfer being with broken people like myself. The people that I'm referencing are the ones who go around from church to church looking for a spiritual high the same way an addict needs their fix or an alcoholic has to have their next drink. I pray for them but I find for my own sanity I have to keep my distance.

Becky and Gail,
Thanks for the stuff to think about. I too am more comfortable on the island of misfit toys. There's a difference between being a misfit and being just irritating.

I think another problem is that pastors are expected to be okay with the people who bug the shit out of us, when we really suffer from the same problem, to be honest. One of the biggest frustrations in congregational ministry for me is the expectation that I am at all times a chaplain only - expected to provide pastoral care in times of need but no challenges when growth in faith would be possible. The assumption in my congregation that there is something wrong with "them" while "we" are doing just fine drives me up the fricking wall.

Or maybe I just needed to dump a little bit here. Sorry to suck on you all. :-)

What? You're not perfect and lacking any need? 'the hell kind of pastor are you?
In Christian Love,

There are broken people who allow us to feel good about ourselves because we sense we are able to "minister to them" and it is truly a blessing to us to be a blessing to them and help them in their healing journey. Fulfilling altruism, let's call it. Or selfish altruism if we're feeling cynical.

Then there are the people who just need more and more and it seems like no matter how much we give it's not enough and it actually makes us feel helpless -- possibly spiritually deficient because we are unable to fill their bottomless pit, and meanwhile our resources, even on a good day are exhausted. We ask God to pour out more so we can give more. Sometimes she does. Sometimes we just want to scream and blame the needy person.

And somewhere deep down, maybe we've hidden it so well, we are that needy person. At least I am.

Jemila - bingo! one of the advantages of having been to hell and back is that I can serve as a tour guide for others.

I got an MDiv/MSW because I was so turned on by the concept of Wounded healer that I wanted to help others the way I had been lifted up by a loving community.

The problem I soon learned is that I was only good at helping people who wanted to seek the light - these are people who like me had hit rock bottom but they wanted to change. I love being around fellow visitors to hell because we're both so full of flaws that we can love each other without puffing ourselves up like the PhD poser types or social climbers I see too often at church functions. (As a writer, sometimes you have to play nicey-nice - the only way I can do it is that I have enough improv experience that I create a character who enjoys this crap.)

However, I soon learned that I diddn't have what it takes to deal with people who were not only swimming in the river of denial but they were also taking a good whiz in the river as well. I say bless social workers, conselors and others who can deal with these people.

But I did find the hard way (mild understatement) that God could use my skills as a writer - Every time I get ready to say "screw it" cause I get some really nasty hate mail, blown off at a conference by some jerks or some other hooey that comes with this religious writing biz, I get a letter, email, or some other form of encouragement from someone who said my words were the first time they realized Jesus could love someone as meesed up as them. After I catch my breath, I go on.

I just re-read this and realized my grammar sucked wind - saying "soon learned twice in two paragraphs" is boring - sorry but I'm on deadline for two books. Taking quick breaks to read kewl blogs is more productive than playing computer games(esp. this entry that touched on EXACTLY what I was saying in one of the books). I never said I was perfect.

No worries Becky,

I specialize in typos and thoughtless grammar ;) Anyway the "whiz in the river" image was riveting :)

Glad to hear I'm in good company -- If I sound a bit raw, it's because I'm coming out of a situation in which I tried to help what I thought could have been a dynamic post 9/11 ministry. But as it turns out the priest who is still trying to launch this project is still blaming 9/11 for all his woes - you might as well take your money, time and passion and flush it down the toilet for all the good it does. Many people have come in and 'tried' to help only to leave shaking their heads. Nothing anyone does makes a difference because what he really needs is not to be running a 501c3 but to be in an inpatient psych ward.

I remembered the advice a former spiritual director gave to me - remember them as babies and then love them as they were when they first came out of the womb before whatever caused them to be the way they are happened. Yes some babies are annoying but I can deal with that a lot better cause they're actual children not childish adults.

After I did those prayers, I held what I'd call a funeral ritual here because the person I knew is no longer there. (I don't know when the souls of addicts go to heaven but there's clearly a point when it's lights out no one home.) I said a prayer remembering him as he was when I first got excited about working with him and then said goodbye.

These two rituals of sorts lets me love people like this dude, as I "try" not to get too caught up in the current crazies.


Yes, I have also employed that "imagine them as squirmy, vulnerable, precious, possibly-cute babies" exercise. Would that we could actually turn such people back into their baby selves! I could even love Pres Bush and his adorable little smirk!

I think the challenge for me is that socially inappropriate people who suck all the energy put me in the position of A)succumbing to the black hole, B) seeking complete avoidance/washing my hands of it, or C) being willing to break some social taboos myself in order to set necessary boundaries while still being open to engagement within a context where the dynamics are named, altered and consistently redirected even if doing so means not being polite from a conventional viewpoint. I think the latter is the toughest approach, but also the one that Jesus most frequently embraced.

I cringe, knowing I am called and challenged to move in the this direction. At least a snails pace can still be considered movement :)

I hear you - one thing that helps me is that I was a basket case in my twenties. I don't think I'd still be on this planet if some kind souls didn't extend agape towards me. But in looking back, I see where these people set boundaries so I didn't pee all over them when I was at my worst.

Watch how Brian handles the "emergent groupies." He's kind, gentle and yet he's able to set boundaries so he keeps his next appointment. I see him as the gold standard here.

I find I can be more Christlike to people that make me crazy when I am at my optimal mental and physical state. For example, I just decided to bag an event because I am under a lot of writing deadlines (taking short breaks to read blogs, etc. clears the mind so I don't snap) and too many of my buds aren't going to this event. Hence, I know I'm vulnerable this week (one book is due next Monday) and without this support system, I decided not to risk it.

One minor suggestion that I find helpful is that as a journalist, I take a view similar to Jack Kerouac where my life becomes fodder for my work. So, if I had to attend this above mentioned conference, I would then assign myself to the role of journalist/observer. That keeps me focused so I can do my job. Is that WWJD? No but I'm not Christ. But I've found that by doing that I at least don't damage the gospel with my actions.

You could always take the Pauline approach: Be really nice to them, and, by so doing, you "heap burning coals upon their heads."

I do "try" to apply my grandma's motive to "kill them with kindness" when someone is being a real you-know-what. My problem is that when I try to be really, really nice to people who are bugging, I'll end up with this "you were the only person who has been nice to me this entire week" kind of response. And then they stick to me like glue. There's only so many times I can say I have to go to the bathroom or make a phone call .

Wow--I thought I might be the first person to comment on this post, and here I've joined a support group! I come to this site for the prayers; SL makes me want to be a Lutheran. Sadly, I'm a progressive evangelical instead, which means that I often find myself in conversation with victorious Christian livers that have never tasted alcohol. I like the broken better than the victorious, but both strike me as a different category from "irritating." Lately I've been so irritated so often by so many people that I've been exploring instead the gestation and life-cycle of my periods of irritation. I'd like to, in my irritation, not sin. So far, no such luck.

So you're human, who would have known it! :) But then again, didn't Jesus also get tormented and annoyed? So maybe it's not just a human thing. Maybe it's a God thing too. A fall thing. Didn't God came to us as Jesus to tell us: 'you know what, this is existence for you, there is no escaping it in this life - even I, the creator, cannot escape it'. We might sometimes be led to think that God's creation is an instrument of torment. But Jesus showed us that when God gave us life, he gave it with all his love. With our fall - our choice to know God rather than be with God - this is the absolute best he can do for us presently. Everything in life is born from God's infinite love as a perfect gift, to the best of his ability. How accepting we become when we truly understand that.

So I think 'love thy neighbor' isn't so much a commandment as it is a question of how we spend God's infinite love for us, how we respect and love the perfect gifts from God regardless of how life cooked them. Even if we have to walk away from them to see that, even if we cannot bring ourselves to like them, by God's will they are still perfect. Perfect ingredients, just cooked wrong.

Of course in many ways you said all this so much better in your sermon! :)

I Love you girls


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