What if Church were like Hamiltunes?

My husband and I found an activity that might be nerdier than the live streaming of the national speech tournament awards show and rooting for our team as alumni. Our favorite date night activity is to go to Hamiltunes and karaoke through the entire soundtrack of Hamilton with other people in our city who love it as much as we do. We love Hamiltunes, because we love the musical but our consistent presence at Hamiltunes goes deeper than that. We like the way the event makes us feel.

As I spend this summer preparing for a grand re-opening of a faithful little church, I can’t help dream about what that will be. We are sticking with the hymns because we all know them, and like them, and there are plenty of books around with the words. At Hamiltunes you are not out if you don’t know the show. We are excited to introduce you to the show, to tell you our favorite lyrics, to see the delight in your face when we all throw our hands in the air to snap and yell WORK! We are in a club or sorts, but you are invited and we want you there to experience it. What if the church sang hymns like that? Like we actually believed the words, like what we were singing mattered, like this thing that we sing about is really remarkable and we want to introduce you to it? I want to go to a church like that.

At Hamiltunes everyone is in and everyone is welcome. This is also true at New Hope, I have truly never seen a more welcoming church than the one I serve. I went before I started preaching there, and y’all they were amazing. Every single person who walks in through those doors knows they are loved. At Hamiltunes everyone is also welcome to participate. We WANT you on the stage, as a chorus member or to throw out a random line. We want you to sing along from your seats. We want you in on the action, as in as you want to be.

What if that is how it was at church? What if you could come up and lead because you just love this song so much, or you could sit in the back and just take it all in. What if every way you wanted to participate in worship were a good way?

I like Hamiltunes because I can try out different parts. I like that I can try being King George, or George Washington, or Angelica. I like that you can figure it out and see. Turns out that the range for Hamilton is not the best for me, but Burr works well. I know that King George is way more fun than I thought it would be and George Washington is where my heart lies. I know that because I got to try. I got to try and see if it wasn’t for me then I knew. I want church to be a place where the people get to try and see if their heart sings, if they love something. I want church to be a place where you can discover you love something, and your church roots for you. Your church can’t wait to see you nail it. Your church is longing for you to succeed and wants to cheer you on when you do.

I want to go to that church, one that feels like Hamiltunes. I want people to be as comfortable on Sunday, as they are at the Vista room, singing their hearts out.

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I’m a Pastor on Prozac

Hello. My Name is Abby and I am a pastor, and I am on prozac.

Both of these things are pretty common knowledge. My Facebook profile has me in a collar. If you have talked to me recently I have probably invited you to one of the four community picnics my church is having this summer. Also, I make it a point to talk about my depression medication. I think it is important to talk about, because sometimes it feels like the only people talking about it are saying it is my fault.

My brain does not make enough serotonin, also I am extremely near sighted. Both things are true about the way God made me, but no one has ever suggested I pray away the near-sighted=ness. They just tell me they like my glasses. I want there to be the same stigma free conversation about mental health as there is about eye health. No one has ever said that the reason I can’t see more than 3 feet in front of my face without my glasses is because I lack faith.

Historically, this is how the church has been pretty terrible to people with mental health problems. For that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry that even as recently as yesterday people have taken the opportunity to use the suicides of very public people to let the world know that God’s people aren’t depressed. What hogwash. What a terrible lie.

I am called, and collared, and I have chronic depression. I am God’s people. I am God’s beloved daughter, and I take prozac every single morning. I believe that tiny pill is a good good gift from a good good God who is inviting me to participate in this world as my full self. I need some more serotonin. This pill provides it.

I prayed for years that my depression would leave me. There were times when it was better, and times it was worse. There were times when I was exercising and meditating and it felt better. The depression felt better. But there were also days when there was a constant loop of criticism in my head telling me that I was not good enough, that I was a failure, that I was going to screw it up and everyone else along with it. I didn’t always even know what it is.

Depression is a liar, and unfortunately the church has sometimes contributed to those lies instead of calling them out. You being depressed is your fault as much as you being nearsighted. There is help. Of course pray about it, but be open to the spirit leading you to medical intervention.  I spent a long time avoiding meds because I was sure God was against them. I was wrong. When I tried to give up negative self talk for Lent and could not do it, I got the help I had needed for a long time. For me, prozac is the miracle I have prayed for. I know that not everyone has the same medicine journey. I know that sometimes it takes a long time, or the meds stop working, or a doctor pumps you full of a drug that isn’t meant for you (this happened when I was 16, it took me 15 years to try again).

I wish that I could send you to any church in America and they would support you, hold your hand, cry with you, and hold your hope on the days it was too hard. I wish that the church was always a place where we could weep together, and hold each other in pain and joy, where we really did laugh and dance and weep with those who were doing any and all of those things. There are churches like that, I just wish they were all like that.

For now, all I can say is that I am a pastor, and I am on prozac. Both of those things are from God. Both of those things are good gifts from God. I am grateful for my call and grateful for my meds. I am grateful for a community that walks beside me and encourages my full gifts in my full health. For me, that means believing that God loves me, preaching truth, and taking prozac. Depression is not your lack of faith, it is a lack of serotonin.

 

When This is a Summer for Faith like a Child

We used our Christmas money to buy season passes to the amusement park. The same pass works for the water park. I thought it was maybe a little indulgent but the girls certainly did not need anymore toys. We go at least three days a week. With the dining passes sometimes we just go for dinner and ride until it closes. If we miss our favorites, it is okay we can go tomorrow.

My friend Micah wrote once about delight. How it was a practice, how it was a spiritual practice. I think about that a lot. I want to be delighted by this world. I want to believe in a God who enjoys delighting me like I enjoy taking my kids to 6 flags. Just because I can, just because I love them and it delights them. I want to practice delight in this world.

Christian had to go to work so the three of us headed to the park right after the storm came through. The rain had chased everyone away and the only thing holding us back from the rides was how fast we could run through the turnstiles.

We hit the waterpark we had been eyeing, the little one inside the park. We ran up and down the play place and slid down every slide we could fine. Purple! Orange! Turquoise! Green! Yellow! Again, again, again! Just as I was thinking this was a completely perfect day, I looked to the right and found the big waterslides and the wave pool. Apparently, there was even more to be delighted by. We hit the slides and hit the wave pool. The waves weren’t on yet and my girls were super stoked to just splash around. When the waves turned on you should have seen their faces. How could this perfect thing get better? But it did. It really did.

I love watching the kids at the water park, at the amusement park, at the local park. They are just so good at being delighted by life. They are just so good at being surprised by joy. They are just so good at giggling with abandon, and unbridled squealing, and embracing the good things of life like the gifts they are. I am learning how to love something again and again and again, not just the first time. I am learning how to expect good things, then be completely delighted by them when they come around. I want my faith to be like that. I want faith like a child.

I need faith like a child this summer, my foray into local pastoring with the Methodist church has moved into revitalization/ church planting. I have said for years I would not church plant, but I love my little church and I know this is the right next step. It turns out I didn’t want to be a lone wolf church planter but am happy to lead my pack into the great unknown. This involves a lot of expectancy, and a lot of asking. It involves inviting people to be involved in a New Hope. It involves eating at the local ice cream joint and seeing if anyone wants to come to our free community parties. It involves asking on Twitter if anyone wants to buy my church a slip-n-slide and getting half promised before I can finish this post. It involves being delighted by our fresh eggs and honey and being expectant and also joyfully surprised when my whole budget gets approved.

Kids ask a lot, they just do. They want with abandon and they ask for things. But then, they are totally delighted when it comes through. I want to have faith like this. I want to have faith with more squealing in delight and being doubled over in laughter. I want faith like a child. I am learning how to make this a spiritual practice.