I never thought in a million years that I would be sitting down and discussing theology & cultural application with a Catholic priest. I guess God had other plans! So here's the story in a nutshell...
For almost five years now, I've tried to be intentional about helping the neighborhood that surrounds our church. It took a minute, but God helped me to understand (in a real way) that Faith Outreach Center Intl exists within the wider context of a local community called a neighborhood. Our neighborhood exists within the wider context of a community called a "district". That district is a part of a wider community called a city...and so on. If I wanted to engage culture, I had to first be willing to do it in my own back yard. So I did.
I started out by looking for places where I could connect with the neighborhood. I didn't have to look far. The Lord already set things up to where the neighborhood association was meeting at our church. I just needed to get involved. So I did. I began to build relationships with the most unlikely people! Imagine a young rapper sitting in a neighborhood association meeting with people who where, on average, about 35 years older than me. Hilarious! But I continued to reach out. To make a long story short, I've had the privilege of building great relationships with the neighborhood association and other local leaders. We've accomplished a lot together! We've done arts camps, backpack giveaways for the community, National Night Out events, and our annual Community Christmas Breakfast which has provided breakfast for hundreds of people and gifts for hundreds of kids in our community and beyond. It has really been the favor of God!
As it turns out, the sweet and petite elderly ladies who I befriended from the neighborhood association are faithful members of St Paul Catholic Church. This church has what is called a "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity". During this week, they have different speakers from different faiths come in to do the message. It's a part of something they call an "ecumenical service". (Before you call or write, please know that I understand what ecumenical means!) Sometime last year, the chain of events went as follows...
- St Paul Catholic Church gets a new father at the parish named Charles Chapman.
- The sweet little ladies from the neighborhood association spoke very highly of me to Father Charles.
- They invited me to a Welcome/Meet and Greet for Father Charles. By God's grace, the meeting went well and God granted me favor with everyone there.
- Father Charles invited me to speak at their ecumenical service during their "Prayer for Christian Unity" week. He even invited me to do some of my music but I opted to do some spoken word instead. It went great.
- I was invited to come back to conduct a bible study on Tuesday nights by one of the parishioners. I conducted the bible study for two Tuesdays. It went great! They all asked for CDs too...which was somewhat hilarious to me. I promised that I would give them CDs.
After the bible studies, I hadn't really heard from Father Charles. Then, for multiple reasons, the neighborhood association stopped meeting at our church and began meeting at the recreational center down the street. It was kind of an answer to prayer because my hope was that these parishioners would begin to position themselves in a place where they could engage the rest of the neighborhood. My connection with them slowly began to fade...and I never gave them those CDs. For some reason, that kept gnawing at me. So last week, I finally called Father Charles and set up a lunch meeting. He gladly and graciously said yes. I packed my CDs for the bible study group and headed over to meet him. We went to lunch and talked about the following:
- How small churches can have a great impact.
- Dealing with church debt.
- Accountability within church leadership.
- The legitimacy, accountability and the credibility of house churches within the Protestant faith.
- How the church can engage culture on the topic of same-sex marriage.
The crazy thing was that he was the one asking me all of these questions. To his credit, a person that asks questions is very wise. It's not like he didn't already have answers of his own. He was seeking to understand me and my belief system a little better. In the time that we had together, I tried to answer as many questions as I could. The conversation went really well, and I feel like God gave me favor just as He did the last time that I spoke with Father Charles. And I made sure to give him the CDs lol!
As you can see, all of the topics of discussion could be deserving of their own blog post. However, I'm not gonna do that here. If you would like to dive into any of these topics, please leave me a comment here on the blog and I'll be glad to dive into some discussion with you! (If you decide to leave a comment, please leave it here instead of posting to FB, Twitter or IG. I would hate to blow up people's news feed with looong posts!)
Thanks for reading. Hope to hear from you soon!