By: Lauren K. Bush

Church is chaotic. Church is messy. Church stumbles in during the middle of the sermon with eyeliner scrawled all over its face, pants falling down, loudly looking for a cup of coffee - with cream and sugar, please. Church sulks the outside of the prayer circle, heckling the group, hissing and tossing insults. Church wanders around, panting, accepting pets from those gathered and gets in trouble for eating chicken bones off the ground. Church sings off-key, forgets to make an announcement, gets into arguments, has opinions, forgets to turn off its cell phone, is full of differences, and has its conflicts.

Church is love. Church is hope. Church is endless hugs and smiling faces. Church shows up consistently when few others do. Church calls to ask, “How ya doing?” Church stops and sits down for a few minutes while others pass, oblivious. Church gives a shit. Church makes sandwiches for Church to hand out. Church gratefully accepts sandwiches and eats them. Church feeds the birds. Church prays, sings in glorious harmony, waves hello, is excited to see you, helps unload and set up for service, anoints, teaches, and heals.

Church is the body of Christ in all of its beautiful parts and forms, in all of the ways it moves and is still, in all of the ways that we are humans being.

Blessed to serve with Church of the Common Ground this year, I have the opportunity to see church outside of the walls I’ve known. Not that I’ve never been a fancy or high church girl. My home church of St. Thomas is a ‘working church,’ mostly blue collar, small, simple, and what for a long time I’ve called the happiest place on Earth. It was at St. Thomas that I got to learn the unconditional love of Church, and to see Church working not in spite of, but because of all its various imperfections. They loved me for all of who I was, and loved me into who I am. I watched. I learned. I imitate.

The most beautiful and profound thing I get to witness as a part of the Church is how Love changes people – both those receiving Love and those giving Love. Love transforms.

Sure, Love can do this outside of Church, even outside of Church outside. If I were plugged into a different faith tradition or belief system, I’d likely see it there as well. These dynamics are not isolated to Church. But it is in Church where I’ve found myself, my purpose, and my calling. It is in Church where I overwhelmingly experience God’s Love expressed through other humans being in all their forms and functions. And from there I can look outward and see it playing out in the world all around me.

Church is Chaotic; Church is Messy. Church is Love, Church is Hope. Church Is. Thank God for that.