trying to read what I could of an article for my 8 a.m. class-
the woman next to me, puffing on a cigarette (the smoke was blowing away from me fortunately) asked “You go to school? You a student?”
“Yes,” I replied, “I go to [well known University on the other side of town].”
“Oh, isn’t that nice? You studying to be a nurse?”
“Um, no… I’m studying for a Ph.D. in theology actually. I’m a pastor.”
Her eyes widened, she began to grin, “Well, isn’t that just great?! Bless your heart.” She began to finger the cross around her neck “I wear this cross EVERY day.”
“Do you feel that it brings you strength?”
“Oh yes, and I do my devotions, meditations EVERY morning and thank God for my day EVERY night. I just did my meditations before coming here” and then she went on to describe her impressive daily devotional routine, the various texts she reads, the time on her knees, etc.
“So what did you read this morning?”
She started to list the various books, including the Bible.
I said, “But what did you read in the Bible this morning?”
“Oh,” she said, “John 14- a real nice one.”
We started talking about different dimensions of that chapter. I am so grateful for the biblical literacy bestowed by six years of parish ministry… I don’t need to open a Bible to talk about John 14.
So then I asked “Do you have a church home?”
“Well, I used to go [here] and then I went [there], but right now we don’t really have a place. But I don’t need it. Church is more trouble than good. As long as I’m doing my daily meditations I’m connected to Jesus and that’s all that matters.”
Mind you I had just spent a week reflecting on Bonhoeffer’s teachings on the individual/collective dialectic and the absolute necessity of the church in the life of Christian discipleship and I was preparing to go engage my final Bonhoeffer disputation… and to write my final Bonhoeffer paper… and so I gently pushed her a bit to think about about the fact that Jesus calls us into community, not into relationship alone with him…
She cut me off “I’m not alone. Jesus is with me all the time. Besides, church is just the place of controversy. I don’t need it.”
I don’t remember what all else I said, but mostly I encouraged her to embrace the challenge of living out her faith in community as well as in her private devotions… she seemed less interested in talking to me after this. The bus came shortly and I think she was relieved.
Interestingly across from me on my second bus were two folks heading to work at the hospital at the University I attend. The were chatting with one another about various things and then one asked the other “Where do you fellowship?
“Well, I’ve been going to [such and such].”
“Oh yeah, I know it.”
“But I’m still looking for a church home.”
The first conversation was with a white woman, the second conversation, overheard was between two African-Americans. I wondered it is generally true that African-Americans invest more of themselves in the communal, ecclesial dimensions of their faith. My experience in the two churches here certainly suggests that. These two fragmentary conversations suggests that… What do you all think?