I was reading the website of a non-denominational church in my neighborhood today and it really ticked me off. The website is attractive and alluring even. It’s all about finding community. You can enter through multiple portals. (This is good.) You can connect with people “like you” – married, single, whatever. (This is also good.)
But it’s not real. What they don’t tell you on that website – and it would probably not be obvious until you indeed made some friends – is that there are no leadership positions if you have ovaries – except in the kitchen or as a mentor to other women. And there are absolutely no leadership positions – or follower positions for that matter – if you are queer.
There are many queer people and/or people with ovaries in this neighborhood. And there are many lonely people in this neighborhood – so the possibilities of luring people with fake inclusion are high.
What’s real is that people – all kinds of people – are seeking authentic community. This is not news. Making friends as an adult is hard, especially when you move to a part of the world where you didn’t grow up or go to college.
A Pastor’s Community is tricky because our role is preacher/counselor/spiritual guide/professional Christian. We have friends in our congregations, but we must maintain good boundaries which can be difficult when you become intimately involved in someone’s life – as their Pastor doing pastoral things.
How do you make real friends as an adult – especially if you have a job that values strong professional boundaries? I’m figuring that out with the help of people I (or my insurance company) pay in hopes of better discernment.
When I say (sometimes our loud) that Jesus is my closest friend, I might sound ridiculous/pious/self-righteous, but it’s true. HH is the closest version of human friendship but Jesus is the Total Package. I have church friends, college friends, wine friends, family friends, dog friends, art friends, food friends, travel friends, and Christmas Card friends. But there are parts of my life that each of those groups doesn’t know/don’t want to know about me.
Part of my call story is the stark realization that – even though he did not have ovaries and lived in ancient Palestine – Jesus was the only human being (alive, dead, or resurrected) to know me completely. I felt that in ineffable ways on a lonely night in Chapel Hill over 40 years ago. Because of this the Incarnation tops the Resurrection as my go-to favorite theological tenet. I don’t particularly care if Mary was a virgin or not. I do care that The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. (Thank you Eugene Peterson.)
How do we make friends as adults? We do the best we can. We love people and accept them as they are. We are curious about them and interested in what happens to them.
Since moving to NC last spring, my new friends have included four retired people who eat at Shomar’s every day, a stand up comic and a sex therapist who work as servers in the corner restaurant, MK who works at Midwood Smokehouse (do you see a pattern here?) and lots of wonderful church leaders. I am grateful.
I’m grateful for friends who invite me to meet them at The Thirsty Beaver and friends who invite me to fundraisers. I’m grateful to those who accept my invitations to go to plays and walks in the neighborhood. Thankful for neighbors who taught me the correct way to pronounce acai and those who offered tips on finding a salon and a hardware store. (Still looking for a new dentist and internist.)
I’m headed back to IL in a week – since HH is still there, and it will be great. But just as I found community in the Midwest, I will continue to find new community here. May you find new friends who get you in the coming year.