A man I know volunteers his time visiting people in hospital. He’s a member of the United Church of Canada (as am I), and he visits people who designate themselves as United upon their admission to hospital. Sometimes he knows the patients he visits, but often he has never met them before.
When he visits people he doesn’t know, he’s usually met with a wary reaction. “The people,” he says, “want company and comfort, but they are afraid I’m going to preach at them about Jesus or insist they pray.”
He begins his conversations gently. He makes it clear that he has no expectations about beliefs, or prayer, or hymn sing-a-longs. He says, “As soon as they know we can have a real conversation without judgements or preachy expectations, well, all hell . . .” He pauses to correct himself. “. . . all heaven breaks loose.” Quite often, in the end, they do pray, but on their own comfortable terms.
This man and I belong to churches that nurture us with joyful celebrations of spirit. Our churches don’t exclude people based on gender, race, or sexual orientation. These churches welcome questions and doubts. In our faith communities, we find heaven on earth.
We find it sadly ironic that the patients he visits don’t expect to find this in every church. We find it sadly ironic that so many churches, temples and mosques that purport to help us find heaven in another life have so many expectations, exclusions, and, worst of all, judgements that they rob us of heaven in this one.
Live joyfully, love expansively, laugh outrageously and, lo and behold, all heaven breaks loose.
Here’s my joyful church: Trinity United Ottawa
Here’s my Top 10 reasons to go to church: Top 10 reasons to go to church