Tomorrow night, our church will be visited by the Bishop and Superintendent to discuss the upcoming change in status of our church. I’ve been a member of FUMCLA ever since Alex and I moved to Santee Court way back in 2004. I remember when he told me we should try out the church, especially since it was the church his grandmother was a longtime member. It was much smaller than Santa Monica FUMC, but there was a draw.
I grew up without a church. It just wasn’t a thing we did, we celebrated Christmas and Easter - but I didn’t know really what we were celebrating. When we visited Grandpa Bob and Marian, we’d attend church with them. But, it wasn’t a thing. Only after living and pushing myself through a bunch of things 20-year olds often do, did I realize that I didn’t have go through life alone. Even after baptism, I didn’t have a church - Until Alex took me to his church of Santa Monica FUMC. It was instant! Being so far away from my family, I felt like I could see again what all kinds of stages of life could look like.
When we moved into Downtown Los Angeles, we just figured we’d continue attending Santa Monica FUMC. The drive on Sunday wasn’t that bad. But then came that one morning...Alex went to FUMCLA, and I stayed home. (I likely went over to the Flower Market, since it was right behind the building) He came home and talked about the pastor, and the diversity of people. I went the next week with him, and he was right. Santa Monica UMC is diverse, but FUMCLA had something that I’d never seen before. Sure, families from other continents, countries, cultures, and I mean everything. No two people (even family members) had a similar life story. Everyone was at different points in their life, different experiences with their church, relationship with God, just everything was different.
Hooked. But Hooked too late?
The church was in transition. Having torn down their building, they were meeting in a multipurpose room. The talking tone made it seem that our location was very temporary, and that a new building was imminent. Like a woman just moments about to deliver a baby...kind of imminent. This has been the longest labor.
We’ve had reboots, Messy Church, open invitations, invitations and invitations, and engagement. We’ve lost pastors who’ve dedicated their entire being to helping us to rebuild our congregation. The excitement when someone walks in the door - every single time - is still there. Not because we’ve hung our hat on thinking maybe this will be the person to save our church, but rather “What will this person add to our story”.
That’s where we’ve failed to grow our church, we got caught up on the value of each individual person. We were caught in the emotion of every single person, which meant that we were too slow. We value the quality of the individual relationship, not the quantity of relationship. My friends and family - I want you to know that regardless of our church’s definition - we failed to grow our church in numbers. We grew hearts and minds.
We failed to put people in church on Sunday morning. We failed to maintain the status quo on the long-held tradition that “Church” only happens on Sunday.
But, you know where we did not fail… we have not failed in our love for one another, we have not failed to love every single person who’s crossed our threshold of our vision of church. We have not failed in showing God’s love for anyone. We have not failed in spreading the Good Words, we have not failed in opening our doors and opening our hearts. We have not failed those who’ve questioned, cried, or were angry over God’s treatment. We have not failed Kid City, Girl Scouts, our friends at Villa Flores or Hope Village. We have not failed the food bank, and we have not failed those who use the food bank. We have not failed DTLA, and we won’t ever have to fail our brothers and sisters.
I’m broken hearted right now. I’m welling up with tears every time I think that I won’t see some of these people ever again. But, then I’m reminded...Church...my friends...does not ONLY happen on Sunday. I’m just stuck on the decades old tradition that FUMCLA has, the stories of our lives, the stories the walls could tell.