The Mustard Seeds Youth Group met recently for an evening of mayhem and making soup. After a ton of crazy games, including trying to get an Oreo placed on your forehead into your mouth without using your hands, they put their chef hats on and created a fantastic pot of soup to share at the Augusta Warming Center. Loving God, loving neighbor and eating Oreos off your face! THAT’S being the Church!
A few weeks ago, a new refugee family came to Everyday Basics, our toiletries pantry. As their two children walked in and around our clothing bank called Addie’s Attic and the Augusta Community Warming Center we noticed the boy, around third grade, was wearing the blue shoes in the picture. His sister, who was around the same age, was wearing water shoes! Neither had socks and outside we had just had about 7 inches of snow. We tried to ask their mom and the little girl if they had warmer shoes at home but their English was as bad as our Arabic. Then I remembered that another little boy from the Iraqi community had showed me the Google translate app on his dad’s phone a few weeks ago. After that, I had downloaded it, and so I pulled out my phone and typed “shoes” in and out came أحذية and that worked! We tracked down Diedrah and Dan from the Warming Center who brought out their magical box of boots and then we found them socks from Addie’s Attic. Watching the grace and compassion shown as those two helped those two children find the right size boot was a gift from God.
Two O Nine? What kind of church name is that? It’s not a “normal” church name for sure, but then we’re not a “normal” sort of church. It’s our street address, 209 Eastern Avenue, and when our congregations began to worship together in this location answering the phone became so complicated that some way of talking about the whole needed to be found. The Church at 209 doesn’t leave either church out but it also allows us to talk about what we’re doing together and not run out of breath in the process!
Some folks wanted us to come up with a new, permanent, “churchy” name right away, but we need to spend a little more time in this in-between time. We need time to honor the wonderful gifts brought by each of our congregations and we need some more time listening to what God is calling us into together.
Another question that is often asked is, “Will I have to become Lutheran?” or “Will I need to become an Episcopalian?” When my Swedish mom was growing up, she wasn’t supposed to date someone from the Norwegian, Finnish or German Lutheran churches in town… and let’s not even mention non-Lutheran congregations! GASP! Denominationalism was serious business not too long ago, so when we start working together across denominations some get nervous. The good news is that years ago, Episcopalians and Lutherans sat down and agreed to be in “Full Communion” which means they can share clergy, members and they agree on all the important things.
So, if you come in as a Lutheran you can stay a Lutheran and if you want to be an Episcopalian you can do that too. We’re actually less worried about labels beyond the label of Beloved Child of God that everyone has! In that way Episcopalians and Lutherans are more like flavors of ice cream and The Church at 209 has just discovered the great Divine gift of one scoop each, of two different flavors piled on one cone! For us at The Church at 209, now that we’ve discovered two scoops, who would want to go back to just one? – Pastor Erik
The Church at 209 isn’t your “normal” sort of church. It’s a work in progress, which means on the upside… it’s not stuck! It also means that we’re constantly trying to figure out where God is calling us next and things are always a bit unsettled. We don’t have church all figured out, which feels a lot like real life to us! We’re on a journey and we try new things and see if they work and then try something else and see if that makes better sense for that day. Along the way we’re doing our very best to welcome all people. We don’t care where you’ve been, what you’ve done, how far along a faith journey you are or if you haven’t even begun that journey. We don’t care who you love and we certainly don’t expect you to have it all figured out… after all, we don’t either!
The Church at 209 is a bit of an experiment. We’ve gathered people from a Lutheran church and an Episcopal congregation together in one place to worship together, care for one another and welcome all people just as they are. We wanted to see if by coming together we might be better able to reach out in service to those on the margins of the greater Augusta area. Each congregation has great gifts and a rich history they’ve brought to 209, but together along with new people (maybe someone a whole lot like you) joining us along the way, we’re finding the Holy Spirit is making The Church at 209 greater than the sum of it’s parts!