I have been thinking lately about our worship theme this month: “Welcome Home”. This is the last line of our new mission statement. When these two words were suggested, everyone immediately felt that it fit our experience of coming to this church. I hear it from visitors all the time: “I walked in and really just felt at home.”
As someone who is a big advocate of therapy and counseling, this is an interesting theme for me. Because so often therapy is spent on dissecting our families of origin, or our early home life. We go back to our childhood experiences in the home and think about how those experiences shaped us and often how they damaged us or gave us unhealthy coping strategies. For many of us, our experiences of home have been difficult—abusive, tragic, rejecting.
Church homes can be the same way. Church families can be as dysfunctional and unhealthy as our own families. In fact, I read an article recently that cautioned churches from being too much like “family” because this can lead to insular communities that do not easily welcome new people.
So why would we want to use a metaphor that runs the risk of making us insular or that reminds us of childhood experiences that were so often painful and harmful?
Well, first of all, it is scriptural. There are many places in scripture that describe the church as a new kind of family, as a household where God is in charge. In Romans, Paul talks about how we relate to God. He says we shouldn’t relate to God as a slave to a master anymore. Instead we relate to God as God’s own children:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
So we are sisters and brothers to each other because the same God has adopted us as her own children. So it is not necessarily how we relate to each other that makes us family or that makes us home, but it is how God relates to us.
I know exactly what it is about Church of the Village that makes me feel at home. This is the first church where I have felt like I can be fully myself. It is the first church where the things about me that are different are valued and cherished. And that is just how we should feel in God’s house. God as our parent loves us—every part of us–especially those parts that make us unique. That’s what makes the church feel like home to me.
So God’s household and the home we strive to build together is really an alternative home, an adoptive home, where the parts of us that have been rejected from home find acceptance, where the abused find safety, where the homeless find shelter and family.
So I invite you this month to be thinking about what it means to feel at home, how you welcome other people into home, and how it affects your life outside of church to have a spiritual home.