By: Bailey Brawner
This past five days, I was fortunate enough to come back to my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska for a quick visit. Throughout that short time, I was able to spend time with some of my close family and friends.
Last night, our 20’s and 30’s (young adult) group met for Theology on Tap, an event designed for fellowship and theological discussion. Pastor Dave Beckett led us in a discussion based around Marcus Borg’s “Speaking Christian”. About half of our group of twenty shared their “legs” of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral that they identify with the most or find most challenging; scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.
Through this, we became inclusively challenged with the “view” of Christians. People who do not necessarily identify with Christianity see “us Christians” in a certain way, a way which can be likely seen as negative. I’ve been identified as judgmental, non-inclusive, and a bible-thumper. Maybe some Christians are like that. I might have even seen others portray this image, but why do I, why do we need to be associated? So with that question, we discussed further why this was and how it affected us in our day to day lives.
The funny thing is, this wasn’t a new conversation for me to be a part of. In our day and age, the topic of how we are viewed is pretty common. But this conversation seemed to be a little different. The things those around me were saying resonated in a way that made me understand and relate. So what’s different? Was it because I listened better, or maybe that I wasn’t in as good of a mood the last time? It wasn’t. Rather, the difference was evident because of the people around me.
The people around me came from the same faith community that I did. They understood the things I had been learning my whole life, and could sympathize with the struggles I was having. They saw others and themselves through a similar lens, one where they used scripture, tradition, experience, and reason to discern truth. I didn’t have to sit and try and explain what “United Methodism” was, or argue the beliefs of the denomination. I was at home.
This morning, I was fortunate to see one of my greatest mentors preach a sermon at Saint John United Methodist Church. Though I hadn’t been home to go to church in almost four months, I felt right at home. Not only was I remembered and greeted in a manner that demonstrated care, the words themselves resonated in a way I hadn’t experienced in a while. The message, called Full Access, focused in on Palm Sunday, and encouraged us to give all we have to God, the one who invites us to follow Him. Though the points and delivery were absolutely fantastic, they didn’t have much to do with the reason behind my connection to it. Instead, it was my deep connection to the people I was around which was powerful.
From the familiar sounds of the choir and small children to the feeling that comes when hugging Bob Smay to the genuineness of the conversations I hold with congregation members, I feel at home again and again.
I was home.
While there may be the same God in every state, there is something about a place that is called home.
Thank you to those who are a part of my home church. I feel blessed to be a part of a community that loves each other, and loves the rest of the world in the same way.