Why We're Here
As a community of faith, we exist for two main reasons: To encounter God, and then to go out from that encounter and Bring the world around us to life.
Now, this isn’t easy! God is not encounterable like a person and even when for a short time he was, most people missed him: He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. And then our world—Oy! So much destruction and brokenness on grand and personal scales—and so much of it self-inflicted—it’s a world surprisingly resistant to the life it so desperately needs. And here at Sanctuary, we’ve only been trying for whatever-year-this-is minus 1999 (the year we started), which probably isn’t that long.
But we do our best . . .
What We Do
We start by removing Christian obstacles: churchy words; behavior codes; dress codes; you-must-be-happy codes; and the many Jesuses. You know, those identities of Jesus that we’ve willfully imposed on him. That, for example, Jesus is Nice. Or Placid. Or Passive. Or that Jesus is Peaceful, or a Wise Man, or soulful or angst-ridden or an island or a million other things that arise from anywhere but Him.
We also try to push through our human obstacles: our cares and worries, our sadness and grief, our innate sense of not measuring up. We don’t deny them, but rather make space to perceive the God who is bigger than them. And we’re also straightforward about our failings—our misbehaviors, addictions, and self-centeredness—all the things we do that head us away from, rather than towards, Jesus.
In doing so, we follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist who served as the town (or cosmos-) crier for Jesus’ arrival. John was, “A voice of one calling in the desert,
Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
And all humankind will see God’s salvation.
We’d like our church to be a place where chasms are filled, mountains are leveled, and crooked paths straightened so that the approach to God is easy and free.
In addition to removing obstacles, we build bridges. Not bridges to Ketchikan (“nowhere” to all but the 8900 residents), but bridges to God. Bridges of prayer, of song, of thought, and of spirit. The Golden Gate Bridge of the Bible story. Bridges built on Sundays, in small evening groups through the week, in morning prayer meetings, and in many quiet, individual, alone moments.
A favorite image for church that we come back to often is the sycamore tree of Zaccheus. When he couldn’t see Jesus because of the crowd, there was the tree waiting to lift him up above the madness so that he could lock eyes with the Divine, bring the world around him to life (in the form of a nice tax rebate), and then go have dinner with God.
We give ourselves to the world around us in myriad ways. We serve dinners at the Shelter House, build with Habitat for Humanity, serve at the Free Medical and Free Psychiatric Clinics, help single parent families with moving, provide spring and fall cleanup services to elders, and send a medical missions team three times a year to impoverished colonias in Mexico. We helped clean Iowa City after the tornado (2007) and the flood (2008), and Lake Charles, Louisiana, after Katrina (2006). We give out reusable grocery tote bags, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and advocate for the environment. And more.
And the best thing is that we do it all together! “Community” has become something of a buzz word, but we really do like being together and we work hard at making it work. We welcome in anyone who is interested in seeking God. We’ll use any occasion to throw a party that involves food and fun.
And we provide lots of opportunities for getting to know each other and living life together. We have groups that meet in the morning, afternoon, and evening (though none at 0200 yet); groups for singles, couples, teens, students and families; groups that focus on spirituality, game playing, personal prayer, and food. We talk about and practice humility, openness, serving, saying sorry and forgiving.
Come and See!
Well, we're kind of running on at this point, and this section has turned out to be longer than anticipated. The problem? To quote the friend of a famous Prince of Denmark:
These are but wild and whirling words.
And the solution? Rather than throwing more words on the fire, you could take the advice (loosely translated) of one man trying to describe Jesus to another:
Umm . . . Maybe you should just come and see Him for yourself.