Why I stay

 Rev. John Boley reflects on his lifelong commitment to the Church and why he follows in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.


REV. JOHN BOLEY

Clergy Assistant to the Bishop

In a recent edition of The Christian Century, Debie Thomas, a blogger from California, provided an article entitled, Why I Stay, in which she outlined her lifelong commitment to the church. She began by describing how she was welcomed in the church as a child.  All of her many points began with Because. Her work was provocative — while I resonated with almost all of what she said, I thought it would be a good exercise to make my own list of becauses. So here is my 25-point list of becauses. What would your list look like?

 

  1. Because when I was a child growing up in the UMC, from my earliest memories, church buildings were big, beautiful and mysterious places where I could explore and I was safe and welcome.
  2. Because the church was a family project when I was growing up that provided an identity for me that can never change.
  3. Because I had a feeling at a very early age that the church was somehow different and important to all of the other things I was involved in.
  4. Because I knew intuitively that what my dad did as a pastor was important.
  5. Because the church provided opportunities for music, camp, and youth fellowship which taught us the value of community and gave us a chance of becoming grounded and well-rounded human beings.
  6. Because I began to gain the understanding that, especially through the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, the church was a place that sought out dignity for everyone.
  7. Because I began to understand through Confirmation and church involvement that Jesus Christ stood for all that was good and important in the world.
  8. Because when I was in middle school and early high school the church was the only place that was beginning to question the war in Vietnam.
  9. Because I began to understand that the church stood for compassion, and without it, there would be few compelling models of what compassion should look like — that all of the other caring institutions of society, such as hospitals, were mere offshoots of the church.
  10. Because the church was the only place asking deep moral questions.
  11. Because I began to appreciate that weekly worship took us to a higher plane of existence and the rhythm of weekly worship was important for a whole life.
  12. Because I saw people who could show their sorrow and their joy in a safe setting.
  13. Because I began seeing a difference between hope and optimism, joy and happiness, love and admiration — the former of these being spirit-infused, the latter being based on circumstances.
  14. Because after I got married, the church became home for my wife and I, and then our little children.
  15. Because sacred music became a way of life and hymnody filled my soul.
  16. Because the many other things I did in my life did not provide the fulfillment that Christian service did.
  17. Because I began to see Grace as the underlying cohesiveness of the universe, fully compatible with science.
  18. Because the Wesleyan Ordo Salutis, and Wesley’s particular understanding of Grace, became my worldview for human progress and salvation.
  19. Because regardless of its warts, the Church of Jesus Christ still holds the prophetic message of compassion and justice for God’s creation and human life.
  20. Because I don’t always need a given position of the church to agree with me for the church to be completely valid.
  21. Because even though we live in a post-modern world, which has relativized truth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still the way, the truth and the life for me.
  22. Because the church can hold in tension personal and social holiness — the glue of a just and compassionate society.
  23. Because hanging with the church in its stressful times is still life-giving.
  24. Because the church is both human and divine, just like Jesus the Christ, and despite its humanity, will exist until the end of time because it has been ordained by God.
  25. Because six decades later, the Church (the buildings and now way more than that) is still a big, beautiful, mysterious place where I can explore, be welcome and serve.

What does your 25-point list look like?

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