By Katie Hays
Truth: churches attract troublesome people. People with problems, people with hurts, unstable people, broke people, rude people, people who will never be able to give as much as they take from the church.
When I was a brand-new minister 20+ years ago, a car pulled up to the door of the church on Sunday morning. The driver stayed inside; the passenger got out; the car pulled away. It turns out, a minister from a nearby congregation was passing along his most troublesome member to us by abandoning her there in our parking lot.
Her name was Rose. She was really a pain in the a**. She was loud and had bad hygiene and saw the world through the eyes of a (noisy, messy) child, even though she was 60 years old. But Rose was ours, and we learned to love her, with God’s help. It felt like a test, honestly, like those strangers who came to Abraham and Sarah’s tent in Genesis 18. We passed, just by being nice and not dropping Rose off in some other church’s parking lot.
I learned that all churches have at least one person who has been kicked out of some other church, or invited to never come back, or otherwise shamed out of staying. I learned that Jesus, among other things, was a friend to the friendless. And that I could befriend Jesus by befriending these church rejects.
Now I pastor a small church where everybody who comes identifies as a “spiritual refugee” – meaning that they are religiously displaced, without community for their Christian journey. They are gay, or trans, or not sure; or they are the the parent or sibling or bestie or roommate of somebody who’s somewhere on the LGBTQ+ rainbow. Sometimes they’ve been explicitly kicked out of their church. Sometimes they’ve been embarrassed away.
And they are mine. And I am theirs. And we are “us,” now, all of us together, at home with each other and near to the heart of God.
Katie Hays is the founding pastor and Lead Evangelist at three-year-old Galileo Church in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas. After two decades of ministry in traditional congregations, Katie founded Galileo to “seek and shelter spiritual refugees” and explore what shape the community of faith might take if we empowered Millennials to sculpt it. See what they’ve done at galileochurch.org.