I was installed yesterday as called pastor. And a friend was dismissed from her congregation.
Our churches are in trouble and we don't know what to do. Amid the joy yesterday, a session member remarked that it was wonderful that "my friend Xavier" came for my installation. "My friend Xavier" is an African American young man with two twins with severe speech problems (they are four and do not yet speak). He is jobless and comes to the church and asks for work. I think he asks for handouts. This man has needs and has come to church to find help for those needs. He is MY friend. He is not a recurring visitor. He is not a potential new member.
The congregation will be overjoyed to learn that a couple has decided to join the church. One son has some difficulties and is extremely hard to manage. The Sunday school teachers have an extra person who works just with him. This couple has needs: a need for a safe place for their son to be loved and cared for. They have found their needs met in this congregation. They are not MY friends. They are potential new members. (Oh, they are white, middle class, dress nicely.)
I have no idea how I can open the congregation up to the possibility that Xavier is as much a part of us as the couple. That God has sent Xavier to us as clearly as God has sent two couples with young children. I say that, but it seems to slide off them.