On The Edge

I’ve been at the California-Pacific Conference - the Annual Conference at the University of Redlands.  It’s the conference that I felt that FUMCLA needed to have a presence if we wanted to convince the Conference that our church was viable.  And, this is what I’ve figured out: Not only are we viable, but we are vibrant.  We are a growing congregation, and are twitchy with excitement.

I’ve been upset, distraught, angry, sad, and then I’m here now. Two days ago I felt like I had to force the feeling that our Church was going to be okay.  But, now I have a much better sense that FUMCLA will continue to grow.  

We’ve spent years (even before the Brideaus arrived in DTLA in 2004) on congregation building, working with church-growth consultants offered by the district to make sure we were welcoming, that we could be confident in asking people to come to church on Sunday. We spent years counteracting nature: older congregants just up and died, and we couldn’t replace members with new members fast enough.  

So here we are.  Many of us have sacrificed spiritual growth for the sake of building actual walls of our own that would support our spiritual growth. And, I’m tired.  

Whatever our path forward will be needs to honor the history and the intent of FUMCLA.  Our doors can't close, but we might not be the big huge suburban-like church. It probably won't have much of a parking lot. And, we likely won't be alone in our space. That's fine. As long as the Urban Foundation, Kid City, and all the ministries of FUMCLA are intact, I will sleep soundly.

Bishop and Superintendent Making The DTLA Trip

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.  

Long Day

It was very odd NOT to be working the Gold Line opening today.  Almost everyone (with the exception of a couple people...more on that in a moment) from Metro worked the Gold Line opening today (they are likely still working it because the activities don't end until 4p). Here's my day:

6A: Woke up.  It's a nature thing.  I can't sleep in.  I try all the time, but 6A comes, and I'm ready to go.

6:05A: Jackie and Scooter realize that I'm awake.  They aggressively begin to wonder why I haven't fed them yet.

6:06A: Fine.  Out of bed, feed the cats.  Scurry back to bed and begin reading news and email.

8A: Iolani begins to stir. Twenty seconds later she's up, seeking breakfast and Saturday cartoons.

9A: Iolani begins meltdown over clothes, socks, and shoes.  Takes a breath and continues meltdown over shoes.  The issue: She doesn't want any of her shoes to get dirty.

10A: We are to be at the Spring Street Community Garden.  We are still at the house, arguing over shoes.  Ultimatum given: Get your shoes on, or I will put your shoes on you.

10:01A: Shoes on.  Uber on the way.

10:15A: Arrive SSCG.  Meet up with Cadettes and two other Brownies, and attached grown-ups.  The ground was leveled, there was dirty dancing, giggling.  But, we got hungry.

Noon: We walked down to Koraku for lunch.  We inhaled food.  Then, magically a co-worker from the Regional Connector team appears.  Fine...I texted her to let her know we were eating lunch.

1:15P: We rolled into the Little Tokyo Library to crash the TBM workshop that the Regional Connector team was hosting.  How much fun!  The girls get tired of me saying "Oh, a station here!  A station there!" It's nice for them to hear it from someone else.

2P: Depart library.  We are all going our separate ways. Iolani and I head off to the JPV, buy a Hello Kitty thing, and head off to the grocery store.  We need to make a fruit salad for church tomorrow.

Oh, and I bought a can of coffee.

>please hold while I get that can of coffee<

Ah.  Coffee.

We finished at the grocery store, hopped the shuttle from Little Tokyo back to Union Station.  I attempted small talk with a couple of older folks who were obviously on their way back to one of the new Gold Line stations.

4P: Back at the house. I bribe Iolani with a bottle of soda that I bought, in exchange for her putting away the 567,987 pairs of shoes she dragged out of her room earlier in the day. I succeed.  She's also conned me into making her toast.  She knows that I bought white bread at Japanese grocery store.  She's got a soft spot for this bread.

I've got a night of fruit cutting and prepping for Girl Scout Sunday.  It's been a long cookie season, we have a couple of cases left over, which I'm not stressing about.

Obviously, I'm not stressed about cookies.  I mean, I haven't posted a blog entry since last May.