I came to First Church for a job and fell in love with it as a church. Right after my very painful and difficult separation, I needed a job. It was in many ways a low point in my life, and a complicated, messy pivot point. I found First Church such a place of healing. I was re-learning about safety, about relationships, boundaries, even about finances. They kept on persistently helping, and not because they wanted me to join the church. It was just because of this sincere belief that I mattered and that they wanted me to thrive, as my whole self. Because of that, I eventually decided to join as a member, and still as a Methodist. I didn’t have to change who I was.
First Church is becoming more and more my church every day. It’s the things like helping with financial support when things got short in the past year--just like when I was first around, I was able to receive support without judgement or expectation. And it’s not just the bare necessities. A church member gave me a Christmas tree this year, and other members gave me decorations for it.
At First Church, the responsibility for doing your own spiritual work is built into our theology. It’s not a place to go and be passive. It’s a place where we take responsibility, but at the same time celebrate that we’re not in control of everything. You’re going to be challenged to make some of the change you wish to see in the world. Even internally, we’re not the church we want to be yet--that’s how life is, and that’s part of the deal. You get to come in your full humanity, and everybody else does too, and there’s one designated perfect one who isn’t you and who loves you, and that’s God. You won’t find any other perfect people.
And, here’s a tricky piece. We want you to do some of the lifting and leading. You matter, and mattering can be intimidating. It’s not just a gift, it’s also accountability and responsibility. That can be scary. We’re going to ask you to use your gifts. And if your life is falling apart, we want to know so we can get the discretionary fund worked out and get you a Christmas tree.
So here’s what I want people to know: at First Church Berkeley, we’re going to screw up. We’re going to screw up together. And it’s worth it. And there’s room for you.