Stained Glass in the City

westminster-detroit-windowStained glass inside and broken glass outside.

The church I serve, Westminster Church of Detroit, lives at the crossroads of church beauty and urban blight.  Our neighborhood is still nice, as people say, but surrounded by all the woes of  Detroit.  Our building is stunning, but too big for the congregation.  It costs a fortune to heat, light and insure.

Then there’s the fact of being Presbyterian.  Some people who visit on Sunday expect a longer service, a more lively sermon, and a more imposing pastor, and go away puzzled.

It’s not a secret to anyone that traditional churches seem like an anachronism now.  It’s a hard place to be for people who can’t sit still, people who can’t see what good it’s going to do, and people who feel like the church doesn’t approve of them.  Why bother to go?

I live four miles from the church, in a whole different world.

The women from the church tell me where they go walking at the mall, or a park in the suburbs.  I walk around my neighborhood, in the dark of the morning or the dusk of the evening, well aware how fortunate I am.

My child goes to the neighborhood middle school, with classmates who’ve traveled together since kindergarten.  Around the church, some kids change schools every year, as the city of Detroit closes school after school.

My grocery store is full of anything I can afford to buy.  I don’t have to shop at the convenience store.

What can I possibly have to offer this church, I wonder?  Still, it feels like a God-thing to be their pastor.

westminster-detroitOur church is at the crossroads of growth and decline, in the midst of being a part of our city and different from it.  The church in general is visibly, painfully struggling, at the intersection of tradition and forced change.  As a parent, I’m at a crossroads, aware that the little kid is gone and the teenager is here.  As a daughter, I’m at a crossroads as a daughter, as my mother declines into dementia and my father ponders his future.

All of life’s contrasts are alive and well in the church, too, and so we travel together, seeking the light through the stained glass, and picking up the broken glass.