Recently, I’ve been witnessing the growth of a new church. I’m attracted to growing things. Spring is evident everywhere and its outstandingly beautiful in Chattanooga, TN. Today I sit on my back porch looking over the back yard at the vibrate greens embracing my vision. There is a pear tree – probably older than I am – full of new leaves. I just noticed the emergence of tiny little buds that will soon be pears. Much in my life has this quality currently, especially a little community of seekers at a church called White Oak in Red Bank, TN. This particular church holds a great deal of meaning for me. I’ve returned to this church my entire life. My father insisted that I join him there each Sunday during my childhood. His parents were attending and he had grown up there so I too grew up there. I carry this history with me in the present which makes this church’s growth deeply meaningful.
But there’s much more here. Over the past month church has meant more to me than I can remember, at least since I was at Glide in San Francisco over a few years ago. I have been genuinely moved during our services. The critically corrosive thoughts that typically swayed my mind during worship have fallen silent. I have noticed the space in my heart to feel connected and that feeling has a quality of the miraculous.
This past Sunday I witnessed the pastor celebrate a moment of true spiritual experience. She accepted the membership of her father into the church. This sounds nice already, but the history of healing and transformation that stood testament in that moment was much more than nice. It was a miracle. Pastor Amy spent years looking up to her father. Her father spent his entire life as a Church of God minister – a denomination that unabashedly rejected women in ministry. Still, in reverence and faith Amy thought of nothing else but following in her father’s footsteps as a pastor – practically an insurmountable challenge facing the denominational sign that read: “No girls allowed.” This little girl, with a persistent heart, spent years under the shadow of discrimination based on gender and pressed forward in pursuit of her calling despite convention, family criticisms, and religious dogma. Last Sunday our entire congregation witnessed the power of transformative grace and generational healing when a loving father whose heart had been melted by a determined, faith-filled daughter publicly announced his membership and unwavering support of pastor Amy’s ministry.
I haven’t witnessed such a spiritualized event in a church in a long time. It was more than just generational healing. It was an another event that symbolized an entire religious movement to overcome gendered oppression. It was a spring time event in a new church.