If there was one word to sum up my experience at the One Project, it would be “uncomfortable”. Not the kind of uncomfortable where you pack up and leave because you don’t enjoy it. The kind of uncomfortable where you know that this is good for you and, though your inner little kid doesn’t like it and is squirming, your inner adult tells you to stay.
Why all this inner controversy, you might ask? Because while the speakers at the One Project, together, left me with a beautiful collage of visions for a new definition of “church”, I am realizing the kind of self-sacrifice that it would take, and it hurts. Especially because I’m supposed to start with myself.
The lessons I’ve learned come to me in pictures, and I will attempt to share them here through diagram-essay, unconventional as it may be. I see the top of my imagined diagram as being the main definition of church, with it slowly being broken down into components, and finally into the painful applications of what that would mean for my everyday life…though, as many a woman has been told, pain is beauty….
If I am going to take seriously the stories and sermons that I have heard at the One Project, or “other people’s realities”, I have to go even further and think about what these five components would actually look like and how they would be applied in my own life. (Of course, once I verbalize my interpretations, there will be those that disagree, therefore, my inner child will be discouraged that my applications can’t be systematized, and I will want to splinter off and do my own thing, because community will be the last thing I feel like doing!) Yet, to take the last concept of “community” seriously, I will remember that systemization is not one of the steps, and that difference of opinion is a crucial part of the process to keep the balance working correctly. I just have to keep my ears open to listening. Or, so my adult side reminds me.
Movement - I will have to acknowledge that the applications of truth will change as I change, and as my context changes. That I will continually be learning. And that, try as I might, I will never be able to fully identify, climb to the top of, and plant my flag into the mountain of Truth. It will never be fully mine to claim, because I am created, not Creator. Unfortunately, for my ego, I will always be on a journey, and just need to learn to accept that that’s okay.
Growth - As a child of God, I will never be old enough to stop growing. And, as much as I might want to say, “but I’m an adult!”, I realize that without growth, there is only death. So if I’m going to move anyways, I might as well move towards the better. This will involve efforts to better myself, educate myself, and learn how to interact with others more successfully in the future.
Discomfort - While I strongly reject discomfort for the sake of discomfort, I will have to pray that the Spirit leads me to know when discomfort is necessary. This will involve an intentionality in listening to other perspectives when I don’t want to, apologizing when I don’t have to, and feeling what others must feel, when I don’t think I can.
Relational Trust - There is a game that God has developed with me. I usually take the first turn, writing-off someone I’ve met, or interacted with, as uninteresting, unhelpful, or unmotivated. Once my selfish move is over, it’s God’s move and He will put me in a situation where I watch that same person solve my problems, show me inordinate kindness, or teach me something new. There is a type of beauty or wisdom that can be harvested from interacting with each person around me. I just have to be open to learning from them.
Community: In order to train myself to engage in meaningful dialogue, I will have to train myself to take seriously the experiences of other people, instead of dismissing them, or superimposing my experience over another’s. Just because I don’t feel it, doesn’t mean they aren’t real in a different context or culture. This will involve a paradigm switch between me, my interests, and my worries, to we, our interests and our worries. From My God, to Our God.
While all of these things may read like an overbearing spiritual list of new year’s resolutions, I find them hopeful. They lie ahead of me as a sort of blueprint towards the church community that I would like to be a part of one day, and my role in making that happen. I find them uncomfortable for my ego, but exciting for my spiritual maturity. And, with God’s strength, maybe I can do my part in moving our church family from diatribe and judgment, to dialogue and journey.
Rebecca Barcelo is a graduate of and recruiter for La Sierra University in Riverside, California. While her undergraduate degree is in Communications, she is currently completing a Masters of Theological Studies at the HMS Richards Divinity School. In August, she will be married and move to join her husband in Boulder, Colorado, with the hope of assisting him in his work as associate pastor of the Boulder SDA Church. She enjoys the study of language, music, and meeting new people.
1 As inspired by Bill Knott's themes of journey and dialogue in his One Project presentation.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5832