I’m sitting here in the 3rd to back row of Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian listening to Stephanie Paulsell, Associate Dean for Ministerial Studies and Senior Lecturer on Ministry at Harvard Divinity School. Stephanie was speaking on honoring the sexual body, of learning to talk about the things we don’t know how to (or want to) talk about (i.e. sex, sexuality & spirituality, the sexual being/body). She drew extensively from His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman (I’m anxious to read these now). She spoke of the Song of Songs, traditionally (& consistently) theologized to be a book about the love God has for Israel – when it is clearly a completely, unadulterated epic, hot, erotic, steamy poem between lovers. And in the middle of her talk, a homeless man walked in and sat in front of me.
Fourth Presbyterian keeps their doors open all the time. They are a church directly across from the John Hancock building, right on one of Michigan Ave and one can always expect to see a great of homeless/street people out front asking for money. But Fourth welcomes them into the church, any time, to come in, to listen to music concerts that happen often in the sanctuary or simply to come and fall asleep on the pews. I think that’s incredibly beautiful. Truly, a welcoming and open place. Which is what the Covenant Network is seeking to do. Create a safe place, an inclusive church community, “a church as generous and just as God’s grace.”
Let us let Fourth Presbyterian Church and their ministry be a model for how we are to conduct our ministries, how we are to live our lives. We need to be okay with opening the doors, we need to be okay with someone who obviously hasn’t showered in a week or more and be passionate about God’s gracious, inclusive, all-encompassing love as we strive to live for the other.