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Finding Faith in Faith

This blog is dedicated to exploring the intersections of faith and politics, the intricacies of religious culture and the struggle to balance devotion to a higher being and to one’s culture.

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Name: jrichard

Monday, January 17, 2005

Skillman de Novo: where the heart is?

Well, to briefly catch up on my search for a church home, I had almost resigned myself to Preston Road. The holidays had me back and forth between Austin and Dallas, and the weekends I was in Dallas, I attended Preston Road.

I genuinely like Preston Road. It reminds me of University Avenue and I had been thinking that my intellectual approach to my faith would be of use there.

The past few weeks, I have been attending a class that was studying the structure and tenets of Islam, in the hope of understanding how that faith structure works and why its adherents believe as they do. This topic is not new for me, for I have taken several classes during my doctoral studies that surveyed Middle East culture and religion and I have several friends who are devout Muslims (and several who are not quite as devout).

I believe the class was well intentioned. And I strongly believe that all Christians would be served well by a better understanding of the other peoples of the book. However, I found that the class to be lacking both the intellectual honesty and the open-mindedness needed for such a sensitive foray into another world. Needless to say, I could go on for pages about my reservations and concerns about the approach to the content, but suffice to say I was disappointed.

So, this past Sunday, I decided to make the rounds again. I figured that Skillman and Highland Oaks needed deserved another look.

I had attended Skillman several months ago. That particular Sunday, the church was honoring the participants of one of its educational ministries. The church seemed friendly, but I had not been overly impressed.

This trip would prove different. I attended the class for “Friends,” a collection of recent college grads, singles and marrieds. It proved to be an eclectic group, but I felt the interaction was extremely open and honest. Most of all, I could sense a sincere spirit of caring among the diverse group. Though the members come from many different walks of life, the distinctions between them do not impede their warmness towards each other or towards outsiders.

The class was contrasting the fleshy fruits with the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5. As I thought about this discussion, I began to piece together an entry for my prayer journal, one that speaks to my recent walk and the frustrations I’ve recently faced with certain members of my family.

The worship service was far better than my first visit. Not only was the singing more lively (the holidays being over made quite a difference), but the sermon was … moving. The pulpit minister (Dwight Robarts), began to speak about community and responsibility. Using 1 Corinthians as a model, he argued that we are saints, and as such, should overcome our differences. But like the Corinthian church, Robarts said that Skillman is failing to connect to those who desperately need relationships. Citing the divisions in the ancient church, Robarts drew an analogy concerning our obsession with privacy and how that obsession seems to be keeping Skillman from getting involved in each other’s lives. Finally, he challenge the congregation to put the assemblies and communal time above their individual agendas. If the body is made up of saints, then the saints need to be available to help those in need.

I was taken aback by the plain words and the straight rhetoric. A church of Christ minister using the pulpit to challenge the saints to change their ways? Not what I’ve come to expect in Dallas.

But this openness and honesty spoke to me in a way that connected to me. I found myself wanting to bring my efforts to the table, wanting to help make a difference.

Not what I was expecting.

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