Sometimes you need a reason to look back and reflect on the past.
This week I was asked to write a quick update for a church in LA (Northland Village Church, NVC ) that supported Oak Life before we started. I interned at NVC while at seminary and our time there was incredibly formative as we prepared for planting a new church. As I typed the brief 5 sentences I found myself getting really sentimental and overwhelmed with all that’s happened in the last few years. It’s amazing that not too long ago Oak Life didn’t even exist, that I hadn’t yet met some of the folks that have become some of my closest friends, and the countless stories of life change that have come from our community hadn’t been written yet. Especially in times as divided as today, the importance of communities like ours who are about of reconciliation, peace, and justice, has become increasingly clear. I’m so humbled to get a front row seat to the Oak Life story and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Here’s the quick update I wrote for our friends down at NVC and below that a note written to Oak Life after election day 2016:
“This October Oak Life Church turned two years old and what a ride it’s been. Our story has centered on the metaphor of a tree that has roots and branches- going deep together and going out together. Being a church in Oakland, California, we’ve found ourselves at the intersection of numerous social justice conversations and have had the opportunity to join in on good work in areas like homelessness, racial reconciliation, LGBTQ equity, creation care, and more. One of the most encouraging patterns in our short history is that people, especially folks who have been hurt by the church or have never fit in at church, consistently describe our community as a safe place to explore Christianity. Over the past few years we’ve been amazed by stories of new life that keep happening as we’ve gone from a group of 7 people in an apartment to a theater filled with almost 100 people doing life together. Thank you for your support and partnership with what God is doing here in Oakland, without churches and communities like yours, none of this would have happened.”
“Oak Life Church,
You are more needed than ever.
Your inclusive, thoughtful, sincere, welcoming, and grace-oriented spirit has the power to heal and reconcile more than you probably know.
While so many have taken the the label ‘Christian’ and tangled it with fear based politics and the the exploitative ambition for power, you’ve stayed compassionate, open, humble, and embracing of those on the margins.
Though you are not polished, though you are still young, and you can’t yet pay your own bills,
You are beautifully walking the messy path of love in a world that all to often defaults to ethnocentrism, exclusivity, judgement, and rejection of the “other”.
You are gritty, eclectic, honest, and diverse.
You are the antidote to religious expressions that are more concerned with the comfort of the majority, the building of institutions, and the vice of nationalism than concern for the poor, commitment to justice, or openness to mystery.
I have seen the potential of our community, and I’m more convinced than ever that what is being formed in our midst is urgently needed in our world.
You are a new wineskin, the rays of light shinning from a fresh sunrise on a broken, divided, and tired land.
You are a vessel of peace, a place of safety, and the very body of God incarnate- the hands and feet of Christ.
Your branches provide perch and shade for the lost, wounded, and weary.
And your roots offer nourishment to hungry souls.
Keep asking the tough questions.
Keep believing that our faith is strong enough for doubts.
Keep loving the outsider.
Keep loving your enemies.
Keep praying for peace.
Keep entering into the pain others.
Keep allowing the Spirit of God to breath life into you.
Don’t grow weary.
If you’re frustrated by the church, let’s build something new.
Let’s keep this thing going. Let’s write history.
Let’s show the world what what Christ’s love looks like.”