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Passionate Boundary Crossing. “Diversity is a blessing; Difference is a burden.”
“Most people want diversity. We just want it on our own terms,” pastor shawn.
First Grace was birthed when two congregations—one black, one white— said yes to the following question: “Do you believe we can do more for our city as one body of Christ, more than we will ever do as two bodies one long mile apart?” Our Scriptures remind us that the church was called into existence by a God “who shows no partiality” (Acts 10.24), and that the first churches in Galatia, Ephesus and Corinth, etc. believed that the Jesus Way of knowing God, knowing neighbor and knowing self was through a discipline of crossing racial, economic, and gender boundaries. Without this discipline we perpetuate and foster ignorance and harmful religious, cultural and identity structures. With it, we turn to God’s order of love to re-order our persons and our life together. The primary discipline in this endeavor is putting your body with diverse bodies by keeping holy the Sabbath.
Keep Holy the Sabbath
“If you win the rat race, you are still a rat.” Some of us have been doing church all our lives. For others, church is a new adventure…the adventure of stopping, or of getting up Sunday morning. Secondly, prophetic joy and healing happens here by intentionally creating a space where the city can worship. To participate in that life you must be present and committed, and learn to be open and willing to grow and not simply to affirm what you already know. Learning to hear and see differently in prayers, music, messages, theologies and PEOPLE is a learned discipline that fosters an open mind and heart. Even in our complex city, and as close as we live to each other, our circles tend to be small—racially, educationally, and economically small. So our relationships tend to be small, our hearts tend to be small, our awareness of New Orleans small, our commitments small, “the other” including the other’s children tend to be small, thus our sense of God can be very small. The “other” is different for each of us. At First Grace we endeavor to create an 11 O’clock hour where “the other” is among us and is us. In a worship space like ours the Holy Spirit is freed to loosen us individually and collectively from our cultural norms and reform our bodies into the body of Christ. This experience is part of the deeper joy the Jesus Way offers.
More than Charity
We do justice work. “Jesus said, ‘Whatsoever you do to the least of my sisters and brothers, that you do unto me’” (Matthew 25.40). We strive to meet Jesus again and again. To this end we do not just live near the least but with the least, and create a space where the least among us are equal among us. Charity is good and necessary, but the ministry of justice puts a greater calling on us to pick-up our cross and engage the power of Life in Christ by confronting the principalities and the power structures that cause disenfranchisement of the least. Together New Orleans, Hagar’s House, Project Ishmael, Sanctuary Movement, The Welcoming Project, our Tuesday Meal, and the way we worship Sunday morning are factual manifestations of our efforts to being with Jesus.
Nurturing the Queen/Kingdom within
“The Kingdom of God is within you,” (Luke 17.21); “And Jesus said…you will know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14.21). Learning the spiritual disciplines that bring self-awareness, while acquiring tools to work with this new self-awareness, while having a community where honesty, support and nonjudgement are paramount, while learning what God has to do with all of THAT— is invaluable to nurturing inner peace, strength and healthy relationships. In such small group settings, each of us can learn of what it factually means to trust in a God whose “mercy is from everlasting to everlasting.” Pastor’s Studies, Monday Meditation, Sunday School, Shomade Sunday, Men’s Morning Call, Thursday night Al-anon are some of the vehicles that will help us develop the Kingdom within.