I have come to realize that I measure how much I LOVE something in direct relation to how much I LOATHED it before. Southwest Airlines is a perfect example. I honestly considered them a near dangerous airline. I don’t know why, they always just seemed less professional to me, or sub-par, and that in turn made me think that death was imminent via plane crash (I think those disturbing backwards seats played a role in my perception as well). However, Southwest has made a comeback in my eyes. They’ve upgraded their fleet with new flashy colors (and a paint job that doesn’t scream this plane hasn’t been touched since 1972), the staff is not only kind, professional and helpful, they’re laugh out loud funny. Not to mention, their commercials are the jam. I LOVE Southwest! (and don’t typically use exclamation points). I have no doubt that in my twisted head, it’s an absolute correlation to exactly how awful I used to think Southwest was as an airline. It’s just my MO in placing value on something, or anything.
So, I grew up in Lutheran schools. Church and religion were a part of my every day, every second, every anything, interaction. It was Sunday through Friday, and I was super over it all come high school. Not to mention, I initially went to a small private Christian high school, that quite frankly, could not have upheld the TRUE ideals of Christianity with any more hypocrisy. BUT, that’s neither here nor there, the point is, I had no true opinions on religion at that point, as I was completely desensitized. Oh, and I LOATHED church. Instead of being an uplifting and rewarding part of my life, it was a flipping drag. My mom would make me get up on Sundays, especially during high school, and I cannot tell you the anger and aversion I felt; towards both her, and anyone involved in the church process. I just wasn’t that into God or religion in its entirety. And that attitude continued through most of college and pretty much all of my present day adult life. Until now.
Over the course of the years, especially in times that I considered to be sheer devastation, I’ve attempted church, but nothing stuck. Until I discovered Munger Place. Munger Place, the sister church of Highland Park United Methodist’s Cornerstone, down in my own ‘hood, is without question, my Southwest Airline of churches. Every Sunday, the pastor, Andrew Forrest, welcomes everyone and anyone, with open arms. There is no judgment passed; there is only encouragement. There is nothing rigid about it; we wear jeans. And yet, each and every message given, each and every Sunday, is so real. So applicable to our everyday lives, as the imperfect humans that we are, and yet at the end, I feel great, like there’s hope for me after all. It’s not a drag, like I remembered. Church is uplifting (somteimes literally, I catch myself on tiptoe, while singing) and engaging.
Additionally, there is no façade at Munger. I remember when the church first opened; a woman was robbed on Sunday morning, directly on the church’s front steps. Despite the possibility of scaring people away, Andrew got up in front of the church and said that he would never hide anything from the congregation, and that while yes, the incident occurred, it would be handled properly. Not only was he so honest with everyone in the congregation, without trying to pretend that these bad things didn’t exist, he mentioned the desire and hope to change the robber’s heart, and welcome them into the church as well. That’s another thing about Munger Place, there is no hypocrisy, and there IS a plethora and abundance of something else, love. If that’s not Christianity in its purest form, I don’t know what is.
Munger Place is an amazing establishment, without whom, my new desire to know the Lord would not exist. So, yes, I now center my weekends on Sundays, and the church, both a day and an institution I used to LOATHE. And yes, for that, I LOVE Munger Place that much more, as a church. BUT, Munger Place, and everyone involved, is also a vehicle to something that will never be measured by or limited to the Sloan Value Scale, and it’s the vast presence of the Lord working in every facet of that church. The commitment Munger Place holds in reflecting what Christianity is all about, which really in its simplest form is God’s love, permeates the congregation every Sunday, I can feel it. That’s REALLY what I LOVE, the Holy Spirit moving through me and the entire church. I promise that no matter how your own value scale works, Munger Place will impact your heart, and any preconceived notions you’ve had about God, religion or the church before. Come try it on Sunday, any Sunday, and see for yourself.