Tag Archives: people

A Dying Church

The Easter Cross at the Table

I appreciate my friend Karakay Kovaly for pointing me to this excellent read by Mark Yaconelli about the state of church in the US and how a lot of faith communities are struggling to keep up with our fasted pace culture. One of the key paragraphs for me is this one:

Because, hidden beneath its anxiety to keep up with the culture, hidden beneath its grief and disorientation, there is a deeper problem: This church doesn’t know how beautiful it is. The people of this church have somehow been tricked into believing the lie that declining memberships, outdated hymns, prayers, and liturgies that use antiquated language equal some sort of spiritual failing. If this church would only embrace its sense of failure, it might be freed up to find that it holds great treasures.

I’m the first one to admit that the way the Table worships has its strengths and weaknesses. We don’t have the budget or focus to make a slick presentation. We get a little disorganized, have mics that go bad, or start a song in the wrong tempo from time to time. Often, it is the simplest and surprising of things that connect with people, not the elaborate theological constructs and experiments that we labor hours on. We are just people after all, who are doing our best to encounter and point to this Being beyond us who has given us a sense of hope and guidance in this life. More often than not, we over complicate everything.

Dying is scary, but one of those deep rivets that runs through our faith is that death is not final… just another beginning. Out of death, new life mysteriously emerges. That’s one of the stories of Easter. Even if you believe that Jesus probably didn’t come back to life, we still contend that this movement of people experienced something so unforgettable and life changing through this person that it has continued to this day. In the end, it’s just people, struggling, grasping, celebrating, hoping, and yearning for that new life to take deep root in their life and in the world all around.

For anyone who checks us out or joins the pub for an evening, I hope they see that first. When I look at our gathered crowd on a Sunday morn or around the table on a Tuesday night, it is what I see – a beautiful people, a beautiful church. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve such a group of folks and join in the process of dying to the brokenness of my life so that something whole and new emerges.

Reports from the Homeless Census

Last Thursday, a group of six from the Table headed out out to participate in the Homeless Census, a now annual event designed to give both government and community organizations the information they need to serve the homeless population in the DFW area. Four of us went to Dallas Life to interview some of the residents there, while the others went with a police officer to various camps around the neighborhood. The interviews were conversational but basically found out how long a person has been homeless, what benefits are they receiving, and what kinds of services they might still need. It was moving and fascinating to hear their stories. There were 18 year olds, single moms with kids, people with college degrees, folks with histories of abuse, ex-offenders, and more. It was near impossible to categorize them. They were just people, like you and I.

As a community, we will be looking for more possibilities in the future to connect with, learn from, and serve our neighbors like them. I hope you might join us.

Here are some more quotes from a few of our people that went and participated:

After having been to Honduras and now seeing the conditions of our homeless in Dallas, it was like being back in a third world country last night – Greg

It was amazing to find that some homeless choose this lifestyle because they prefer it to any other. I would like to learn how to help those people. – Jules

A homeless man was asked why he did like The Bridge. He said,”too many people, I’m a loner…..I just want to live out here and be left alone.”

From Beth -

I was put at the Dallas Life Foundation, a shelter for families and singles.  I have worked at the Bridge many times, but this was one of my first experiences one-on-one with people experiencing homelessness.  The FIRST thing I realized is that I didn’t like the word “homeless”.  It sounds so final, like they are homeless forever.  I prefer to use “people experiencing homelessness”.  This to me means hopefully a transition, a place to stay until they can get the help they need to get on their feet.  I have heard and believe that almost half of people experiencing homelessness are mentally ill.  This makes it even harder for them to receive services – many don’t like being closed up and are basically invisible to the general public.

I talked to families with children.  I wondered, how do you explain this to your kids?  They just want their kids and to not worry about things like where they live or whether they have a lunch to take to school or dinner in the evening.  I talked to people with Master’s degrees, one with two master’s degrees.  They had run on hard times, lost their job, then their car, and as a result with no savings, ended up experiencing homelessness.  I talked one lady who receives $16.00 in food stamps a MONTH.  How ludicrous.  But the main service I heard people say they need and was nowhere on the form for the census is bus passes.  Most of these people want jobs and it is hard from downtown to get anywhere except on the bus, and with no money, no bus pass.

 I tried to carry on my survey with a conversation.  I shook their hand when they sat down.  I tried to engage with them.  Sometimes it was challenging, but so rewarding and an honor to meet these people and they taught me so much.

You can find out more about the Homeless Census at the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance website.

Relief Kits

In September, the Table will be working with our whole congregation to collect supplies to make relief kits. Church World Service will in turn ship those kits to places of disaster, war, and famine, like Japan, the Horn of Africa, and so on. You can help this project. Here is the ingredient list for a relief kit:

  • One hand towel measuring approximately 16″ x 28″ (no fingertip or bath towels)
  • One washcloth
  • One wide-tooth comb
  • One nail clipper
  • One bar of soap (bath size in wrapper)
  • One toothbrush (in original packaging)
  • Six standard size Band-Aids®

The items all need to be non-perishable, so toothpaste is a no go. Be on the look out for good sales or extras of these items that you can donate to the cause. The Table will spend some time in worship one Sunday putting these items into the kit packages.

Our hands will make a difference in someone’s life.

Stay tuned for more updates about this fun project for September/October.

Tales of Honduras

Meet Greg Byrne and Jules Martinez.

Both have been a part of the East Dallas Christian Church and the Table for a while. Greg makes the great coffee we enjoy on Sunday mornings. Jules has and continues to serve on several committees in the life of the church, doing great planning and support for our ministry together.

Greg and Jules just got back from Honduras on a learning/mission trip with Church of the Incarnation, our neighbors across 75. Their plan is to lead us in our own trip to share in ministry with the good people of Honduras. In fact, this Sunday, Jules will be sharing her experience as our message in the Table. It’s going to be cool.

Are you interested in mission? Would a trip to Honduras excite you? Come find out more this Sunday, 9:30 am.


The Theology of In-N-Out Burgers

I have never had an In-N-Out Burger.

Inevitably, when I tell one of my friends who is from California, they go into this long-winded argument about how much I have missed and how this thing needs to be rectified immediately (or as soon as possible).

I love a good burger, so I just listened and wondered at this mythical, magical chain and their wondrous burgers that would turn so many of my good friends into burger evangelists.

Finally, my wait is over. Two In-N-Out locations opened up in the North Dallas area today. Someday soon, very soon, I will experience the greatness of the In-N-Out burger experience. Soon, I too may be converted.

Even as Americans in our culture grow less tolerant and interested in organized religion, there are many of us who are easily evangelized into becoming die-hard fans and advocates for products, companies, and sports teams whose fundamental bottom line is to make money off of us. It feels like we are sort of trading one religion for another. And on top of it all, the relationship is never very balanced. We are invited to become fanatics about a product that we have little or no control over and often have no recourse if our experience goes sour (minus a boycott).

Church, on the other hand, is supposed to exist for others. I read a quote somewhere that church really is the only organization that exists for the people outside of that organization. Not that we have done a good job in the past few decades of living up to that ideal. Like a bad business, we just expected that people would come in through our doors and accept our product, even if it was bland, disconnected, and preoccupied. Were we too focused on our cliques and not the people on the outside?

Even as people line up for the newest iPad or In-N-Out restaurant, it reminds me that Jesus must have had something figured out, since he had people following him into the wilderness to camp out and hear him speak. What was that message? What turned those first listeners from consumers to evangelists of the good news? Maybe it had something to do with his mission statement from Luke 4:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Yeah, I’d probably line up to see that happen too.

If you want to help the church figure out how to speak that theology again, why not join us at one of our pub ministry nights or for Sunday worship?

Until then, keep camping.


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