For the past six months my husband Bob and I have been a tiny part of a new church-plant in Durham called Rebuild Fellowship. Pastor Chuck Reed’s goal is for Rebuild to start a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-generational “love movement.” Little did we know how much we needed the gospel-love we keep experiencing in this fledgling community of beautiful believers. Every week we are greeted with hugs—not the usual stiff side hug, not the awkward shift of a hip, tilt of the head, light-touch-of-one’s-fingertips-on-the-other’s-shoulder kind of greeting. No, we receive full-on family hugs from everyone. In fact, our pastor is of the mind that we all need at least sixteen hugs a day.
Rebuild Fellowship meets in a historic middle school in downtown Durham – not far from Bob and me in distance, but worlds away from our experience. The cultural differences we encounter often leave us feeling disoriented. Yet, as often as we feel out of sorts and out of place, we know the Spirit is pressing us to lean in he introduces some extra texture, and swirls in vibrant color, and messes with our life’s contented and familiar rhythm.
To be honest, sometimes I am eager to embrace the promised warmth and other times I feel so vulnerable. I’m self-consciously aware that I’m surrounded by the gospel in ways I have never experienced before. This multifaceted discombobulating experience started for me while serving as a greeter. Each week as becoming-familiar people headed my way, I’d call out, “How y’all doing this morning? So glad you’re here!” I was tempted to wonder if they would rather see a more familiar face. They had no idea how much I loved seeing theirs.
Secondly, I find myself discombobulated by Pastor Chuck’s call to participate in every facet of the service. As I reflect back on my life as a follower of Jesus, I can say I have faithfully attended church, I have worshiped at church and have been involved in church, I have even helped to plant a church, but I do not think I have ever really participated in church. Pastor Chuck has patiently taught us to respond when he preaches, to praise when he worships, to say so! when the Spirit is leading or teaching, convicting or comforting. Sometimes, aware of our collective lack of participation, he will stop and asked why—why so solemn, why so anxious, why so sad? Even when his questions are met with profound silence, he persists—until someone eventually responds. Then, as one person shares a burden, another intercedes; as another shares a need, someone else is there to meet the need. Soon the whole congregation is participating in amazing and tangible ways, which leads me to the third reason I feel discombobulated.
The Rebuild family is teaching me to lament. Six months ago I would have said, with some measure of confidence, that I after forty years of following Jesus, I have learned to lament. I have grieved the untimely death of my mom to cancer. I have mourned deeply over infertility with my husband. I’ve been plagued by chronic physical pain. I’ve shared my sister’s inexplicable sorrow over the loss of her teenage son. I have grieved alongside friends who have endured the traumatic and unfair. I lament the unsettled and divided, the uncomfortable and untimely, the injustice and inhumane…in tidy and measured ways. In other words, I do not want to come apart at the seams only to be somehow misunderstood in my emotion. I do not want to cry too loudly or too often only to appear weak, or too womanly, or worse. Besides, an overt display of emotion is simply not “our” way.
But, in this new, participatory, gospel-love-filled world I find my faith deepening as I worship beside brothers and sisters who weep openly and regularly, share burdens and anxiety and pain from places so deep inside that only a Holy Comforter’s balm can soothe. I am also learning that lament is a necessary part of a healthy rhythm of worship.
During this discombobulating time, I have often turned to Peter’s first epistle. He writes to encourage and exhort the Diaspora—scattered aliens and exiles living in cultures not their own—and encourages them to embrace their new identity in Christ. He reminds us all that no matter our circumstances we have been born again to a living hope, and we are all part of God’s love movement. We are called to love one another in discombobulating ways (1 Pet. 1:13–2:3; 3:1–12; 4:7–10).
Peter also reminds us that we are like living stones, joined together as a spiritual house, with Christ Jesus as our cornerstone. We are also part of the holy priesthood—called to offer spiritual sacrifices to God—together (1 Peter 2:4–10). We are called to participate: to worship and give thanks, to pray and lament and intercede, to embrace with family-style hugs, and to generously give of ourselves. Rebuild Fellowship has brought the Scripture to light in oh so many ways.
(excerpts from my blog: https://www.CasMonaco.com)