A congregation, at first glance:
Where a search committee, comprising members of at least three generations, can spend twenty minutes spontaneously and clearly articulating their vision of what the future holds for the Church, and for this church.
Where the doors are unlocked and open all day every day - for soccer teams and support groups, beekeepers and bible studies, preschoolers and the lonely elderly gentlemen at a loss without their wives, a sanctuary wide open for a weeping woman to pray alone this afternoon.
Where patriots and pacifists coexist, serving and worshipping together - not always without argument, but in fellowship nonetheless.
Where the youth group outright rejects religion described as duty, salvation interpreted as excuse for inaction. Where high schoolers sing hymns on road trips and call the community to work for justice and mercy.
Where God is at work, in at least seventeen different discernible ways, where the gospel gets preached and the Spirit gets moving, where people are glad to be at church and really want to be out in the world, transformed and transforming, hearing God's call and searching for ways to heed, follow, answer.
I'm transferring my church membership to this new congregation this weekend, one bittersweet transition of the pastoral lifestyle. The people of First Church of the Brethren in Roanoke loved me before I was born, welcomed me into the life of the Body of Christ, formed my faith, encouraged my gifts, and called me into leadership. My memories of "church" are deeply rooted and very visceral because of that place and those people. My pneumatology, ecclesiology, christology, and eschatology were shaped by that little piece of the Body of Christ on Carroll Avenue long before I knew that there were words for them. I am sad to move my membership away from those people who've loved me so long and so well.
But this...this place and these people and their call to join in, to come and see, to hear and answer God with them: this is an offer I can't refuse.