Acceptance of the Messy
I am extraordinarily grateful that Ekklesia is a safe space where we broken Christians can come as we are – where there is no pretending that our lives are spiritually perfect. There is an acceptance of the messy, beautiful journey to discover how God speaks to us and how we can respond. I’ve never felt more at home, or more able to honestly share my walk with God in a faith community, until Ekklesia.
I am grateful to be part of a faith community that acknowledges the grittiness, messiness and texture of reality instead of insisting on living in a kind of evangelical utopian fantasy. The kind of delusion where faithful parents always produce perfect children; where everyone who claims a relationship with Christ is immediately transformed into Mr. Rogers; where everyone pretends that our relationships are tranquil, reciprocated and endless; where all questions can be answered by a verse or three. But ours is a community where, nevertheless, children, faith, relationships and the Bible are valued and honored, and where grace is recognized precisely because we are acquainted with the reality that requires it.
I’m thankful that Ekklesia is a community where it is okay to have doubts and questions. By being such a place, Ekklesia gives my faith — such as it is — space for solace, discovery, richness, and growth.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the faith community of Ekklesia. This church manages to preach Jesus proudly and without equivocation, and yet still be open and accepting of all. They uphold the importance of the Bible and are able to reconcile its historical context with our modern lens. They are not boring. But more than these things, I am grateful to have found a church where every Sunday, I leave inspired, refreshed, and challenged to be more connected to the Kingdom of God, which is expansive, present, and marked by Love. Thank YOU Ekklesia, for being so badass.
As someone who grew up in a family and church that made me ashamed for being gay and where I had to hide my true self, joining the Ekklesia community has been a breath of fresh air for me. I’m thankful for the people of this church that accept me and treat me like a normal person, and as a result of this, my mind has been renewed to where I can deeply focus on my relationship with the Lord.
I am thankful that when my children are playing with other children from the church I don’t have to warn them not to talk about dinosaurs for fear they may not be allowed to play with their friends any more.
I am thankful for so many things. I love that we are not afraid to talk openly about difficult things. I love the fact that as soon as someone walks into our church, the one thing that is guaranteed is that they will be loved. I love that we honor other people’s opinions and recognize that because our God is infinite, there will necessarily be things we can’t know or understand this side of Heaven. I know that no matter what is going on in my life or what I may have done, that I could sit in front of the whole church and be honest about it and that I would be showered in love and grace and would be helped along toward restoration. I love how God shows up during worship….every….single….Sunday.
Biases (and snacks)
I am thankful for Ekklesia because it is a place where I feel free to question my beliefs, challenge my biases, and rethink faith while feeling secure that the foundation of all of that wrestling is rooted to love and honest exploration of how we as a church can become more and more like Jesus. And there are good snacks.
I am grateful for so many aspects of our faith community. I’ve always been one of those people who struggles with depression and self-esteem issues, and feeling like I don’t fit in. Here, I do. I belong. I’m a part of something bigger. I’m free to think what I want and ask any questions I like. I can be a leader one week and a follower the next. I’ve learned about seasons of giving and seasons of receiving. And just last week, I was reassured that I’m not the only parent yelling “say your night night prayer NOW dammit!”
I remember the instances where I said something that revealed a different way of thinking about faith or the Bible in other church settings and how the judgmental reactions made me feel so small. I’ve never had that feeling at Ekklesia and I don’t imagine I ever will. The acceptance and love feel big in this church – like Jesus big – and I’m so thankful for how the teachings inspire me to bring that acceptance and love to others, especially those that don’t think just like me.
Between the teachings and the small groups I’ve been a part of, Ekklesia has literally changed my thought patterns and saved my life. I came in not able to even look at a Bible or believe that God was good. I saw God as a monster my whole life. You guys have shown me a side of the Bible and God that I never knew existed!! You have taught me how to read the Bible and what it was actually meant for. The people I have grown to love have shown me that everyone struggles and there is no judgement! None!! I am forever grateful!! I now see God as love and I’m almost able to read parts of the Bible without complete rejection. 🙂
I’m thankful for a place that’s not trying to hide the fact that we’re complicated people with complicated things going on for them. I’m thankful for living the human experience walking together in faith at church. I’m thankful for a place I can be who I am.
I’m grateful for a community that is honest with their personal/spiritual complications and candidness with finances. I’m also grateful that I haven’t received an iota of judgement due to my crazy schedule and only being physically present a few times a year…yet still feel like a contributing member of the fellowship.
There have been plenty of times on my faith journey that I have asked hard questions about God. Before coming to Ekklesia, many of these questions were asked in solitude because of the fear that those around me would think I was “falling away from the faith”. But at Ekklesia, specifically in small groups, I feel safe asking hard questions. I know that my questions and fears will not be used against me or in an argumentative way. I am so thankful for close church friends who will walk beside me in my journey to knowing more of the mystery of our God.
A place where I could come when life was falling apart. A community where I feel loved for being myself, not for what I’m doing for it. A space where my questions and cynicism are met with affirmation rather than raised eyebrows. Music that is a soundtrack to my life. Spoken words that teach the mind and touch the heart. A table that is open. Hands and feet that build the kingdom of God. That is Ekklesia. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
I am one of those ‘agnostic’ folks [who attend Ekklesia]. I honestly don’t know what I think or really what I believe and I’m actually comfortable with that right now. The thing is, I grew up very religious. Presbyterian Calvinist and very conservative. I was constantly worried that I was not doing enough to ‘further the kingdom’ to ‘win souls’. Any pleasure I took in video games, music or movies had an equal measurement of guilt, because EVERYTHING had to have a purpose. ‘if you go to that party will it glorify God? If you start a band will it glorify God? If you play a video game today will it glorify God? If you audition for that play will it glorify God?’ So I stayed home from a lot of things. Because I was scared things wouldn’t glorify God. I was taught that giving a hungry man a sandwich was inherently worthless. It was always sandwich and gospel. and questioning that was wrong. The first day we went to ekk, it was when the Guatemala team had just come back, the block party was happening and a few other events too…you had so much service activities going on that you had forgotten that it was a raleigh rescue mission week. For the first time in my life I saw a church that put sandwiches in the hands of hungry people because they were hungry. Full stop. Not to get them into church. Not to show them a ‘better way’ but to feed them. ‘Cause they’re hungry. I may be agnostic or a universalist or generally anti-religion … but I know I’m closer to Jesus now than I ever was. And that’s what I’m grateful for.
I am grateful to God and Ekklesia for loving me because of who I am not in spite of who I am.
I am so grateful for the way that ekklesia has welcomed me and my family and been a safe place for us to learn all over again who God is and what god is like…Jesus. Thank you for showing us that God looks like Jesus and that God has always looked like Jesus. Thank you for being a place where we can bring our friends and family and know that they will be loved unconditionally and without reservation, just as we have been.
For a long time, I’ve largely felt invisible. After years of devastating trauma, I took on a rather abrasive, disconnected exterior, but truthfully, I care deeply for others and long to be loved and accepted. A squishy porcupine, as my therapist says… prickly with a soft, gooey interior… sort of like a dangerous candy. And over the years, only a few people had been willing to endure sitting with me in my pain, seeing me, or even loving me, in spite of it. And my time at Ekklesia was surely no different. Like always, there was some attempt to fit in, but after coming off a bit too harshly, a bit too often, I eventually distanced myself, making myself scarce beyond second Sundays [on worship team] in an effort to make me easier to digest. And it worked, that was our deal. I could continue to sing, to do something that I loved immensely, in exchange for my absence otherwise and I wasn’t about to mess that up. And I didn’t push my luck. So when I left for Arizona, I figured that’d be my grand exit, you all did your Christian duty and I held up my end of the bargain… by fading away. Sure, I reminisced about my time at Ekklesia; it was one of very few happy memories, but I never thought I’d come back.
So in September, when I told Curtis I might be moving back, his response shocked me, to say the least. He said, “If you didn’t come back to Ekklesia, I’d be so disappointed!! and jealous of whatever church you went to… We’re a motley group of fakers and failures all stumbling our way forward. You fit perfect with us.” I don’t think I’ve ever fit perfectly with anyone and certainly no group, for that matter… like ever. Remember, I was invisible, and in trying to make myself small, I thought I made it easier to be forgotten, or so I thought. And when I finally returned, full of embarrassment and shame, I was greeted with a love I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. I never fathomed the possibility of actually being missed; I was always someone to put up with, someone to be seen and not heard, but people were genuinely happy, even ecstatic, to see me again. And while I would never admit this in person, because I haven’t quite learned to say this out loud without feeling weird or awkward, I missed you all too. And I’m very thankful for the love that I’ve been shown, though I’m sad it took me coming back to truly understand it. But now, I’m not sure what I’d do without it.
I love so many things about this church. It is inviting and not exclusive (more like an all inclusive Jesus cruise!). It is mind-opening instead of being close-minded. It is intellectual but not pretentious. It is responsible in that monetary resources are well-utilized and don’t get funneled toward building costs. And I am coming to know that it is made up of many good people who I look forward to getting to know better. It is my new church home, and I kinda love it.
I am so thankful for the ways in which our community teaches me in very real ways how to follow in Christ’s footsteps, even when there is personal risk or sacrifice involved. It is an incredible blessing to be surrounded with such beautiful hearts who believe we can create a better world around us through His radical love.
I am thankful that my passive longing, reading, saying the Rosary and Centering Prayer along with Lectio Divina put me in a good space to allow me to be open to a different style church community – a wonderful Non-denominational congregation that is accepting of the LGBTQ [community]. We were invited to attend one Sunday a year ago by the spiritual based camp that our children have attended for 10 years. It reminds me of the Land of Misfit Toys with its collection of beautiful people that are concerned more about living the Royal Rule of Love – as described in James 2 – than following certain traditions and orthodoxies. It is a community connected by wanting to serve all people whether at the Raleigh Rescue mission, or the Athens Drive High school, as well as the Habitat for Humanity in Wake County and is open to receiving everyone. It is a much different service than the Order of Mass with the Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Concluding Rites and I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t missing Mass but this Church has opened its arms to my brokenness and has welcomed me home.