Ordination and Community
A little over a month ago, I was standing in the corner of a crowded parish hall in the church where we share space. The room was full of our friends and community, finishing up our lunchtime meal. A few dozen of our friends had gathered in the corner with pastor Bruce and myself. And they all laid hands on me as Bruce prayed. Most of those hand belonged to people that had slept outside the night before. Some belonged to people who were struggling with drugs and alcohol. Some belonged to people who were followers of Jesus. And some belonged to people who are not sure where they fit in the world of faith and belief. But they all had a few things in common. They were all a part of the beautiful and messy community at HOMEpdx. And they were all my friends. And in the middle of my crowd of friends, as Bruce prayed a short and simple prayer, I was officially ordained as a pastor at HOMEpdx.
You see, at HOMEpdx, our community practices look a little different than most of the places that fall under the label of church. And one of these differences is how we view pastors. For us, a pastor is someone who is recognized by the community as being a just that. Our pastors are not ordained from ‘on high’, but rather from the community. No one gets hired on, or signs up to volunteer, as a pastor. I certainly didn’t. But after a while, if people start calling you pastor and seeing you as such, then we will begin a conversation about being a pastor. That is what happened with me. Because for us, pastor is not so much a title but a recognition of relationship within our community. Because we are a community of equals, of people who are all made in the image of God. And that is what we believe. That all who come into our community are not only welcome, but welcome to speak into our community, and have their voice heard.
And this way of practicing church leads to some beautiful things. Take how we deal with violence for instance. HOMEpdx has been around almost 8 years as a community. In that span of time, we have had to almost never had to call the police. And that is with hundreds of people coming every week. We have had many fights break out, but when one does, the same thing happens almost every time. People from within our community get up, separate the fighters, and let them know that this is a peaceful place, and we don’t do that stuff here. I almost never have to get in the middle of things like that, because our community takes care of it. Because it is their community just as much as it is mine. And they have just as much reason to want to keep it safe as I do as a staff member.
I didn’t write this to toot our own horn at HOMEpdx, or to talk about me (anyone who knows me knows how uncomfortable I am doing that). But I did write this to praise our community. I have learned so much here, and I am grateful to be a part of it. When you are a pastor in a community like ours, you don’t simply get to serve, but you get to be served as well. And my friends have served me in more ways than I can count. They have taught me and shared their wisdom with me. They have been patient with me when I am having a bad day, or when I say something stupid. They have shown me more grace than I deserve. And they have taught me more about what it means to be a pastor then all of my seminary classes combined. And at the end of the day, most of them sleep outside. And I am thankful to call them my friends.