Church for All People

Editor's Note: The following was originally posted on Katelin Hansen's blog, By Their Strange Fruit, and has been reposted with permission.

Church For All People is gearing up for its annual training conference for multicultural congregations. In honor of that event, let's revisit this taste of what we're all about and why I love our community there:

Some folks come to the UM Church for All People (C4AP) because they don't feel welcome at any other church (travesty!).
Some come out of desire to serve under-privileged communities in need.

I come for more selfish reasons.
I come to C4AP because of a conviction that isolating ourselves among believers of similar backgrounds only deprives our own souls of God's majesty. Rich diverse community is how we will know who God is. I have not come to serve the poor. I have come to sit at the feet of those that can show me the face of Christ.
In that regard, I am really spoiled at C4AP.

On Sunday mornings, I have the privilege of worshiping with a beautiful body of believers at C4AP. Together, we worship with the very poor, the very rich, the young, the old, many races, many nationalities, many backgrounds. Isolation within our own groups is not what God would have for us. Instead, the early church gives us a model for worshiping together as the diverse body of Christ, and I am convinced that in doing so, we draw nearer to Him. The Triune God is our model: diverse, but unified as One.

What message does it send the world when we will not unite together to worship our Jesus? What does it mean when someone is more welcome on a street corner than they are in a church pew? What does it say about Christ if drug lords are more inviting and less discriminating in their outreach than our pastors? As Christians, we should be on the forefront of inclusively, not limping along in the rear.

We come to Jesus to find comfort, but no one said church would be comfortable. It can be hard to share a meal with the sick, or have an eye-to-eye conversation with the those struggling to get by. But as with so much of Christ's call for our lives, it is worth it! This is not a charitable endeavour, but one that is fundamental for own souls.

You may serve food at a soup kitchen, but have you eaten at the table as well? You may pray for the poor, but do you ask for their prayers as well? Unless we have an attitude of equal partnership and fellowship, we cheapen and divide the body of Christ. Conversely, when we partner with each other in our daily lives, we offer a witness to the world of God's life-altering grace and love.

I have found that C4AP really is a church for ALL people. They accept me at face value, with my odd music styles, with my awkwardness, my privileged background. It reminds me of Cincinnati Vineyard's "Come as you are and you'll be loved," with an added "and God's not finished with you yet." They don't just accept me, they embrace me, they affirm me, and then they challenge me to be better and hold me accountable. This is the kind of deep community that Jesus is talking about. This is how the world will come to know who He is.

It may be that I could do better work serving God at a more homogeneous church, spreading the word or racial justice and helping to cultivate multicultural community there. But for now, I will relish in the luxury of the koinonia that C4AP provides, and try learn as much as I can from my sisters and brothers there. The Church for All People is my home, and I am so grateful for its generosity with me.

Interested in joining C4AP for 'Embracing Diversity 2013'? By Their Strange Fruit readers can receive a $25 discount at registration (enter code: 'BTSF')!


Katelin Hansen

Katelin Hansen (@BTSFblog) is the Minister of Music at UM Church 4 All People, a multi-class, multi-racial church in an underprivileged neighborhood of Columbus, OH. Four years ago, she and her husband moved to the vicinity to live in intentional fellowship with the surrounding community. Katelin is also the editor of By Their Strange Fruit (BTSF), an online forum facilitating racial justice and solidarity for the sake of the Gospel.

About This Blog

Read and comment on a range of personal reflections and perspectives about poverty and Ministry with the Poor. Our goal is to attract diverse voices and points of view from United Methodists and friends, including people and communities living in conditions of poverty, other experts, religious leaders, community organizers, advocates, policy makers, volunteers, and all engaged in Ministry with the Poor.