Life- it’s full of surprises. I always tell people, I think if God is real, he seems to deal with people each in how they might best understand. For me, it seems he’s used irony- extreme irony- as well as a brutal sense of humor. You might think that cruel, but it’s kind of my language so it works.
I’ve grown up for the most part in the church. Youth group was my jam as a teenager. I went to two different ones that really marked me, in mostly all positive ways, which I am incredibly greatful for. The second youth group, I met a family of brothers that were all close to my and my brother’s ages. They were all musical and their parents played church music with my parents so naturally we became friends in that environment. I became fast friends with Johnny, the eldest brother. Since that time many many many years ago, Johnny and I have been in cahoots. We’ve played music in church settings, in bars and pubs, got married in the same year (14 this year, man😉) and have just experienced life together. I count Johnny as one of my best, truest friends. Friends can be hard to find, so I deeply value what we have in friendship.
Somewhere around 2005 I had a bit of a personal spiritual crisis. I think I came to a place where I was just tired of church. Religion. The “status quo.” I wasn’t anti-God, but really started thinking more critically about what we did as “church” and why in the world we did it. To be quite honest, I operated with a great deal of sarcasm to that point, and the dangerous thing about sarcasm is that it quickly turns to cynicism and then to an almost a bitter hatred. I think that’s where I was with church. I was cynical and creeping into hating it. I didn’t want any part of it anymore. I just didn’t grasp the value, and I was really tired of hearing stories about people being hurt by it. “How can that be of God?” I would constantly ask. In that season, I found myself in a desert spiritually and there is something about desert experiences. They change you. It’s quiet there. Resources are limited. It’s just you and your thoughts. You and the spirit. In that season, I felt deeply in my heart this voice saying, “hey. I get what you’re saying. You have this indignant “right” to say what you’re saying and feel what you’re feeling. But what about them?” And I kept kind of hearing this, “what about them?” “What them? Who them? What about me?!” I would quietly scream back. Then that voice, that whatever in my deepest gut would be silent. Because, desert. All throughout that season, (and many other seasons) I had that friendship with Johnny to fall back on and conversations on his back porch late into many nights. That sustained me, and pushed me forward. Relationships matter. Friendships matter.
The years passed and Johnny and I kept creating and playing music. We had a lot of fun and some interesting adventures. We stole the Wallflowers strawberry jam prior to opening for them (sorry Jakob Dylan!) The music always led to conversations, and the conversations to music but always somehow came full circle back to that question- back to “what would WE do?” and still occasionally I would hear that nudge in my guts “what about them?”
Fast forward to 2014, Johnny and I get together for one of our hangouts. We talk shop- life, music, work, church and have a cold beverage. We have been involved in a great church community and we could totally just be happy there and carry on, but somehow it comes up, because it always does- “what would we do?” And then we start down this road, this new road that sounds like, “well…what if we did?….” We set a 6 month window in our calendars to just pray about those thoughts, ideas, and “what if we did?”
Late 2014 we started taking these conversations a bit more seriously. The question of “what” morphed further in to the question of “why?” Does the world need another “church?” (The answer is no.) So why the conversation? I think it was because there was something deeper stirring. “What about them?”
It’s 2016 now, (halfway through 2016- how did that happen?) We have been having these conversations with some friends about why, about what, and to be quite honest I still can’t fully answer that. But, it’s happening and I’m excited. I’m excited because of the why. The why is “for them.” Maybe that “them” is you. I know it’s me. Or it has been. Or it will be. Maybe you’ve been in that desert. Maybe you are currently in a desert. Like I said, we don’t have a ton figured out, but what we do know is that conversations will occur and a journey will take place and you are welcome into that with us. Maybe for me, this is just ultimately to answer the internal questions and quiet the voices- trust me, it would be much easier to just walk away from this- but I just can’t. Because I haven’t quite found the answer to “what about them?”
So what’s this thing called? It’s called Beloved. Many years ago Johnny and I had both read “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen. It’s a transformative work, as Nouwen’s writings tend to be. We were talking on the phone and Johnny said, “you know, if we ever did this, I would want to call a community simply “Beloved.””
And that was one of the things that stuck.
At the end of the day, I don’t know much about the “them” that have been asked about in my guts for years, but I am learning. They have questions. Hard questions. Concerns. Hurts. Fears. Issues. Also joys they want to share in community, in relationships, in late night conversations on a back porch. I also definitely know this- they, you, me, us, -are the beloved. That much I CAN answer. Oh, and there will be rock n roll, because that has been a constant in this journey as well. The rest, we’ll just need to figure out together.
So join us if you feel that nudge in your guts, we are going to give this thing a go. We’re going to gather 7.16.16 at Upper Saint Clair High School at 6pm. You can find some more information on our social media spots at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Things I never ever thought I would say, “well, we are starting a church.” I don’t even like typing it! (There’s that irony and sense of humor) but, I have to. We have to. Because, them. Because, you. Because us. Because of the Beloved. And I couldn’t be more excited about it.