It seems like everywhere I turn in the last month I've been hearing about Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, and her new memoir, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint.
Bolz-Weber is not your average mainline clergywoman. She wears a collar, but often sans sleeves, to show off the tattoos covering both arms. She tends to cuss, and she's very open about her history of what you might call 'dissolute living'. In a nutshell, she's transparent--and more colorful on the inside than a lot of other transparent clergy-folk.
And blog after blog has been covering her lately, as well as a nice piece yesterday in The Washington Post.
Colorful clergy are nothing new. Plenty of Non-Denoms and other evangelical Christians have seen their share of ministers with tattoos or earrings, or the abrasive, in-your-face style. Sometimes this seems like sick pretense, sometimes it seems like refreshing honesty. The reason I felt like sharing about this particular lady is simply that I was struck by two lines from the WP article.
One is also found on the HFASS webpage: this church, they say, is "anti-excellence/pro-participation." At HFASS they try to take the focus off of the minister, off of any worthy or 'excellent' individuals, and emphasize instead the whole Body. Bolz-Weber will preach and lead the prayer during the Communion liturgy, but otherwise the congregation leads every part of the service, even the music (it's a cappella)! Whether or not you like that way of doing things, I love seeing a place where you don't have to be anybody special to be deeply involved in worship--you don't need to be excellent, just to come and be a part of the Body.
The second bit that reverberated with me was a personal remark of hers. Nadia Bolz-Weber is afraid that a lot of mainline congregations have turned church into just another non-profit organization or community club, 'the Elks with Holy Communion'. She hopes HFASS can paint a different picture of the Church. Religion, she says, should be “something that’s so devastatingly beautiful it can break your heart. Instead it’s been: ‘Recycle.’ And ‘Don’t sleep with your girlfriend.’ ”
And I'll just leave you with that one.
Have you ever felt like you weren't good enough--or others thought you weren't good enough--to participate in some part of the life of the church?
When have you seen something truly beautiful in the Church or an individual's faith? What do you think could make your congregation and ministries more beautiful?