Searching for God

On Tuesday morning I returned home.

Home to Wine Before Breakfast, the community in Toronto where I discovered that I could still be a Christian after all. After all the hurt and pain, after suffering the burnout that comes with what Brian termed PETSD (Post Evangelical Traumatic Stress Disorder). Wine Before Breakfast was my hospital.

It’s been over a decade since I first walked into the Wycliffe College chapel at 7.30 on a Tuesday morning. This week I returned home to the community that I credit with resuscitating my fragile faith.

Wine Before Breakfast was the community where I was tended to, given time to heal, and told that I was loved. It was the community where I was challenged to see the gospel as far larger and all-encompassing than anything I had previously understood.

Wine Before Breakfast was the community in which I was given time to discover whether or not there was anything worth salvaging in the Christian story.

It’s where I learned to walk again.

Walking back into that space this week, I was struck by a flood of emotion. I was struck by the fact that this ministry continues to be such a place for so many. For folks who have been battered and bruised by the people and systems of the church. For folks who have this deep suspicion that the gospel is actually good news, despite what they have seen and experienced at the hands of the church and her people. For folks on the beginning of that journey, and for folks further along.

As I reflected on all of these things, I realised something too. I remembered how much of that healing came in conversation with other folks who had been similarly treated by the church, and were also on the journey of healing. I was healed by the divine physician. A divine physician who knew that health is – as Wendell Berry might put it – membership in a community too. But not just any community.

Through the openness and vulnerability of this community, my wounds began – ever so slowly – to be healed. There was something deep and profound about being honest about what was really going on.

There’s something deep, profound and raw about honest searching for God in a bullshit free zone.

There’s something healing about listening to others’ stories, and offering a few of my own. Stories of pain. Of hope. Of shared laughter. Of shared tears. Of shared lament. Of wrestling. In the midst of it all, the bold demand for a blessing.

At the end of the morning gathering, Geoff & Sara asked what folks need to know about finding such communities elsewhere. The truest response I could muster was “they need to know that they might have to start it themselves.”

I don’t want to get too down on the church, but most congregations are the furthest thing there is from a bullshit free zone.

And if the profound, raw, and honest searching for God of this community is something you want to see happen elsewhere, then you have to be part of that solution.

You have to find other people who are seeking the same thing. Who know what it is to be in pain, to know what is to be in need of healing, and to know that that healing comes from encountering Christ the wounded healer in the wounded body of Christ. In each other. That healing will come in our lament and wrestling, and demands for a blessing.

We’re all wounded. Some of us will admit that.

What this world needs. What this country needs. What this church needs. Is that more of us admit to bearing the wounds we do. So that we might search for and find others who bear the marks. So that we might search for and find others who show signs of healing. So that we might search for and find God in the midst of it all.

What this world needs is that we might come together, broken as we are, to offer as gift the broken body, and the poured out blood as healing to our neighbours – as healing to the nations.

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

Andrew serves on staff at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC as an Assistant for Evangelism & Christian Formation, with primary responsibility for St. Brigids, an emerging Christian community where questions are honoured, faith is nurtured, and discipleship pursued.
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