I was talking to my friend Jade the other day. We went to grad school together and he's now ministering in Lower Price Hill, working predominantly with the inner-city poor. We were talking shop he mentioned that there still isn't a viable ministry model getting the urban poor and the urban affluent to worship along-side each other. It's a difficult gap to bridge. The impoverished can feel like outsiders, as if they're not truly viewed as equals. And, as Jade put it, while the affluent appreciate the concept of worshipping with the poor, it doesn't always carry over pragmatically; there is a fear factor involved as they sometimes can't handle the baggage, even the smells, that accompany poverty.
I agree with him, albeit reluctantly. My secret dream is for Echo to be a church that breaks down these barriers.
With that conversation still fresh in my mind, we had our largest showing of poor folk at Echo this week in a long time. And interestingly enough, they each brought with them their own smell- whether body odor, cigarettes, or alcohol. I'm not sure how they felt in our midst, as they were all seeking out something from the church. But I was inspired to observe that our people engaged them, introduced themselves, and tried to make them feel at home.
Sure it's just a blip on the radar, but it makes me think that creating an urban community where Jesus breaks down those barriers is actually possible.
I know we haven't arrived yet, but we working on building a better community. And it's going to mean learning howÂ to reach out to folk all across different spectra, not looking down on anyone, but embracing people as equals.