I am not a morning person. I’m not kidding; I am not really a fully functioning human being until at least noon. I’m not good at faking it either. On the occasions that I do have to be up early, you will rarely find me well dressed, and certainly not prompt. Furthermore, at no point in the day, regardless of sleep or caffeine levels, would I ever consider myself “peppy”. Anyone who has attended a traditional Methodist church service on a Sunday morning can see how that may present an unpleasant church-going experience for me. Even in the most laid-back and progressive churches I have attended, it was expected that you be on time, well dressed, and pleasant on Sunday mornings. One Sunday I staged a rebellion and my mother conceded that I could go to church in my pajamas. I felt victorious for the entire car ride (all of 6 blocks) but upon walking into the sanctuary, immediately felt the unpleased eyes staring at me in judgment.
These things may seem silly to some, but they represent a culture in the church that inevitably turned me away from regular Sunday worship. I never felt disconnected from God, just from “his people.” It wasn’t until I moved to Harrisonburg as an adult and went in search of a new congregation to join that I realized that there was a bigger issue at hand. I would be lying if I said that my primary reasons for attending RISE for the first time didn’t have to do with the buzz words “Exactly 10ish” and “Wear anything you want. Pajamas or a tuxedo. It’s all good.”
Finally, a church where I could saunter in, late and disheveled, in my Nike shorts and a tee shirt I probably slept in without judgement. Hallelujah, indeed. By the way, did you know that the theater seats are really comfy and rock back and forth?
But I found more in that theater than I had ever bargained for….
The warm, welcoming, and never-judging environment extends far beyond the venue and into the hearts of the congregation. Shortly after I began attending RISE, they began what is now my favorite sermon series – “Stories and Voices.” Hearing so many members of the RISE community share their personal stories really expanded on my understanding of just how accepting this place is. I have truly never felt so comfortable, and so welcome in any other building, or community in my life.
I believe people come to RISE for a myriad of reasons with no two people sharing the same story; that is one of my favorite things about this brilliantly diverse community. RISE does an incredible job of creating a safe space for people to be themselves, and to explore how that plays out in a relationship with God and others. Whether that safe space is the theater on Sunday mornings, the RISE mission house, or any of the events in the community RISE sponsors – the mantra remains the same “Everyone Means Everyone.”
These spaces don’t come without cost though, financially speaking. Please consider contributing what you can to help keep the heat on in the winter, and the air cool in the summer – and the lights on every day of the year. Help us to share warmth, and illuminate light in people’s lives – literally and figuratively.
Grace and Peace,