Last week I had opportunity to call a ‘customer service’ centre. In fairness, I dread making these kinds of calls. I never know where I’ll be directed to, or what type of mood the ‘customer service agent’ will be in, or if they’ll be able to help me. I also know that these folks have to deal with angry people on a regular basis, so I try to be as nice as possible.
To my great delight, my call was fun – the service rep was friendly, we were joking around even, and the problem is in the process of resolution.
In the midst of our conversation, we got to chatting; she asked what I did, and was rather taken aback when I said I worked in the church.
“Really? But you sound fun!”
Hmm – how interesting that this person’s assessment of ‘church’ was ‘not fun’. So I asked her about that – she had only ever encountered judgment, and anger, and boring. So then she asked me what had inspired me to go into the church, and what I liked about it.
So I told her – I told her that the people are great, that God was more stubborn than me in bringing me in, that it’s really a celebration of love and community. Sure, we get it wrong, but sometimes we get it right too.
And she asked me for some concrete examples of how we got it right. (Still casual, fun chatting, passing the time as call centre info was being dealt with.)
So I told her about how I’ve seen folks fight opposite ends of an issue but hug and come together at the Table for the Eucharist. I told her how we provide free meals for hungry folks in town, sharing not just food but fellowship. I told her how folks support suicide prevention programmes in aboriginal communities, because hope is so important for us all. I told her how partnerships around the world are supported in prayer and in practice, working with what is needed and wanted to help restore community (both people and structures), like PWRDF’s ongoing hot lunches in Haiti.
I could have gone on, had time allowed.
Her response was amazing to me: “Your church DOES that?!”
Of course we do – and we do so much more too. If challenged, I bet all of us has a story of good news, of joy and hope, of good work being done, by the grace of and to the glory of God. We all have good news to share.
So why is it still a surprise to folks that this good news exists? I think it might be because we aren’t very good at sharing our own good news. We don’t want to be seen as bragging, or we just presume people know this good news.
But in my experience, people either don’t know or don’t remember this good news. They have forgotten how to receive good news and to share it on. Our media is so full of sadness and hurt; when it mentions religion it’s usually something controversial.
So it’s up to us to share the good news. It’s been up to us all along; even our Easter Gospel reiterated this message: GO and TELL the good news of the Resurrection. Perhaps that can be our challenge this Eastertide: to focus on a good news story in our church and to find a way to share that with someone else. I suspect, if we tried, we could all find someone to be delightfully surprised at what we do as church – if only we’d go and tell it.