I throughly enjoyed lunch with Jonathon and, his good friend, Pinckney, this past week. We had pizza at the SIUC Student Center…and it was delicious. Pinckney is an english professor and good friend to Jonathon, as is his entire family. I have known many professors during my 41 year affiliation with Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, but Pinckney is one of the most genuine and caring academics that it has been my privilege to meet.
We spoke of our beloved university and our mutual belief that it is on the upswing. We are satisfied that the worst days are behind us. We agreed that the high quality of the students that are attending SIUC is exemplary and that their thirst for learning is inspiring.
We also agreed that the pizza was delicious!
I was reminded during our enjoyable conversation that the, artificial, divisions that are prescribed as walls between; faculty and staff and students are a myth. We all desire the same success for the ‘Jewel of Little Egypt.’ We want the revitalization of our University and its continued success.
We spoke of the beauty of the Southern Illinois region. We commiserated on the fact that when people move to the region to join forces with SIUC, they often do not leave due to the idyllic and natural setting and peaceful living of the community.
We noted our mutual dismay that our experiences were similar in some churches that we had been associated with.
I mentioned that I had been affliated with more than one church, that when I chose to leave…no one called to say that they missed me or to inquire if I was planning on returning. One of the churches that I am speaking of, I had been a member for over 17 years and had been involved in every aspect of the operation.
We agreed that it was a bit like being affiliated with a Club…but not yet a member? It is a strange sensation to believe that you are a member in good standing of a church and then to, suddenly realize, that your importance to the groups was negligible.
Most christians want to be a member of a faith community. It is important that all are included, both when they are lovable and when they are grumpy. It is vital that free-thinkers and curmudgeons and doubters have a place at the table.
Those different than the majority and who have a differing understanding of scripture, and who are quiet or reserved or introverted, are vital to the success of Christ’s vision for his followers.
The poor, and the destitute, and the lonely, and the afraid…those who neither sing nor dance nor preach…have gifts for the community of faith that must not be ignored.
There must be a place for the depressed and the aggrieved and the abused and the downtrodden of society.
Is there a place at the churches table for the mentally ill?
Is there a place for the homeless, who are a bit scary, due to their long term suffering and rejection from society?
Is there a place for the atheist to come and enjoy the music and singing and encouraging words and the surrounding beauty of the sanctuary?
Is there a seat, and inclusion, for those who the church world deems sinners…and to be marginalized…and in Jesus time…stoning?
Perhaps we allow people to slip away from our church without ill intentions. We did not know them well…we do not want to intrude on their personal lives…we suspect that they must know what they are doing when they stop coming to our church?
What if we decide in the New Year that we are just going to be genuine with everyone that we meet? How about when our fellow parishioner is absent…we drop them a note, or call them, or an email would be fine, to let them know that we care about them and that their absence leaves a gaping hole in the faith community and that we miss them?