Last night we had dinner at a small restaurant where the tables are a bit close but the food is so good that it’s worth it. Next to us was a young couple on a first date, maybe even a blind date. They were into rehearsing the kinds of families they grew up in, and it took no more than a few sentences for each of them to talk about church and religion. It seemed important for them to get that out of the way as soon as possible. Each was raised in a religious family. Each claimed that that God, in some sense, was important to them. Each claimed that since they are now their own adults they could lay aside the idea of church as something they don’t really need any more. Each told the embarrassing story of their friend(s) who keeps asking them to go to church with them, and the variety of excuses they have for not going.
In a backward kind of way, each was confessing how important God has been in their lives, but how uncool it is to admit that and, at the same time, appear to be a very cool sophisticated, with it, popular young adult. Yet, their stories were also filled with how God simply won’t let them alone. My own thought was, “Ha, you got that right. This old Episcopal priest is sitting right here next to you sending little prayers of blessing over you, around you and with you.”
If they are locals, it won’t surprise me if they find themselves stumbling into Holy Innocents one of these days. One thing I’ve learned from my friend Fr. Bill about how he has reenergized that little parish is that he is known in every top restaurant, cheap diner, tavern, trinket shop and food bank in town. Whether you are a millionaire local, ordinary tourist or resident homeless, sooner or later you are going to run into Fr. Bill’s name through just about anyone who lives or works on Front Street because he is their friend. I wish I had done more of that, but I didn’t.
I think that evangelism has more to do with little connections like these than with great big national church led campaigns that leave most clergy gasping for air.