Recently I was introduced to the concept of Spacious Christianity and I had one of those “aha!” moments, that moment of recognition. The pastors at my local church, Steven Koski and Jennifer Warner, are incredible innovators and, as the kids I work with would say, whenever I talk to them I leave “mind-blown!” So I’m not surprised that they have introduced me to a concept that gives me a much needed framework.
The idea of Spacious Christianity extends an invitation to show up, a promise that there is room for all of us with all of our diversity. It implies that in and through exploring our differences with respect and kindness we will develop a more nuanced and insightful understanding. This isn’t about dichotomy, it’s about dialogue.
It’s a recognition that we are all burdened by baggage, some of it’s ours, some inherited. It’s a way of being that is gentle with each other because of this and it never promises to have the final word or answer. It’s an invitation to explore the mystery of God and to do this together. It requires really good listening and communication skills. It requires the ability to value and honor differences. It implies a recognition that we are all doing the very best we can with the tools that we have and that some of us have different tools so our best looks different. And this is not only OK, it’s necessary.
Somewhere along the line I heard a metaphor for interdependent wholeness; that we are all working on our own image, our own masterpiece, just like someone piecing together a puzzle, only we don’t have all our pieces. And some of the pieces we do have don’t belong in our puzzle, they belong in someone else’s and someone has the missing piece we are looking for. We need each other and this need extends beyond our working on a common project. I need you in order to be fully who I am because you help me see myself, you supply the missing pieces without which I will never be complete. I think that’s beautiful.
Engaging with mystery has a whole lot to do with letting go of preconceptions, and so does really, truly listening to others. Perhaps that’s because others are essentially mysterious. It is their otherness, their difference, that is both challenging and which invites us into a true encounter. Our preconceptions provide stability and this can feel really comfortable; it’s the “I know what kind of a person you are,” that helps us maintain our status quo. But we cannot meet one another until we let go of our preconceptions, our history with each other, our baggage, which categorizes, isolates, and separates us. To peer beneath the mask of our baggage and preconceptions requires vulnerability and a willingness to be changed by this encounter.
I do want to be clear that these are my own musings. I may be way off from where my pastors are headed but I am encouraged to share because if we really are being spacious then there is room for my voice too. And if we are creating space for all people to show up then we will have a diversity of views and that’s more than OK, it’s beautiful and amazing.
I trust that as we dare to meet each other, bravely putting down our preconceptions, dropping our baggage and forgiving ourselves and each other, that we will be transformed by this experience, that we will be drawn into a genuine encounter. And I want to be brave, I want to open myself up to God as God works in my life and in yours. And I know if we do this we will challenge and discomfit each other and we will all be “in process” and very much unfinished and that’s OK. Because I won’t leave you hanging out there all alone and I trust you won’t leave me because there is lots of space, enough for all of us, and that’s pretty sweet!
You can read more at: http://www.bendfp.org/Who_We_Are/What_We_Believe/