Home. When you hear this word, what images or scents or scenes or feelings come to mind? Home — is this a word that brings feelings of belonging or not? This short word of only 4 letters is an aperture that opens to a broad and complex set of emotions and feelings.
This past August at Companions on the Inner Way Retreat up at Zephyr Point, Lake Tahoe, our theme was “Seeking Home & the Practice of Belonging,” with Enuma Okoro. It was a good week, but not an ‘easy’ one.
Enuma had us look at what is means to ‘belong’ and what ‘home’ might look like for each of us. And, as you might imagine, the responses were as varied from warm and cozy and safe, to cold, distant and dangerous.
Enuma began by asking: “What is home, and where do we belong” — asking us to consider how we incarnate home and belonging in our own diverse lives. We talked about our stories. For stories, as Enuma put it, shape us. They are sacred, and they form the unique spaces we come from.
As I pondered my story, I thought about the unique stories that each of you bring to our corporate story of Seventh Avenue. We are diverse. We are international. We are multi-cultural and multi-lingual. Our ‘faith background’ is wide and expansive. We are from a variety of religions: Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian. We were brought up by atheists and agnostics, by Catholics and spiritualists, and by progressives and evangelicals. We are, as Tom Glenn helped us understand some years ago — nomads. Meaning = we are wanderers and seekers. With this background then (and I’ve only scratched the surface in this brush stroke overview) how do we find a home where we belong?
Our website states that “our community is comprised of people from around the world and across the country, as well as those from down the block and around the Bay.
We are multicultural and multiethnic. Our fellowship represents the many faces of San Francisco. We are single and married, partnered and divorced. Kids are at home here as well as those who have lived decades. We welcome people of all ages, and families of all configurations.
We are a Eucharistic community of people who live as family, one with another. We are inclusive, and we passionately live the truth that all people of God are welcome regardless of gender, race, age, physical ability, sexual orientation or anything else that may divide others, without exception.
At Seventh Avenue our unity is found not in our conformity, but in our diversity: we are church that works again. At Seventh Avenue there is no question that can’t be asked, so come and ask questions with us.”
As I re-read this, I realize how true it is! SAPC is our spiritual home, and here we have the freedom to ask questions, to disagree, to at times argue, to laugh and cry together, to sit in silence, to sing and hold hands, to break bread, to listen, to speak, to be challenged and to reflect. Home: at SAPC this is a good and lovely reality.
As we move into this Fall, I invite you to participate in making yourself home here as we begin our program year on Kick-Off Sunday, September 20. There are many opportunities for us to ‘plug-in’ and experience the joys and wonders of this community of faith. You may want to join the Chancel or Handbell Choirs. There is Perspectives @ 11.30 offering a wide variety of topics with knowledgeable facilitators. Women’s Spirituality is meeting again as is the Bi-Monthly Bible Study looking at Paul’s Letter to the Church in Ephesus. The 7th Avenue Book Club is reading, My Life with the Saints by James Martin. Our Bi-Monthly Taizé Services provides a quiet center in the midst of our busy lives. You can volunteer to help with HomeComing [which will be Saturday, October 24] or see what its like to be part of our Spiritual Care Ministries. You may choose to become a member of one of our Working Groups, like Worship or Mission or Social Media or Love the Building or join the Prayer Circle, etc.
At Seventh Avenue there are many places to ‘Belong’ … I pray you’ll find the one or ones that feels best for you, that allow you to feel that your Belong and that you’re Home … because you are!
In Fellowship With You,
Jeffrey Steven Gaines