Deity and the Feast (Town Church pt 1)
Several months ago I received a text from a friend informing me that, if interested, I should contact an up and coming pastor named Nate Downey because heâ€™s trying to find someone of contrasting belief systems, perhaps someone without belief, to converse with. At the time Nate was leading a particularly hectic life attempting to balance work, spending time with his wife and kids, and regularly commuting to Seattle to finish seminary with â€œresurgenceâ€ pastor Mark Driscoll. Like many of the younger pastors Iâ€™ve had the pleasure to meet, Nate suggested that a brewery would provide the right amount of social liniment to discuss the big questions concerning faith, reason, science, and morality. It did. Since then Nate and I have established a friendship beyond mere beer acquaintances. Our world views are quite incongruous, heâ€™s significantly further right than most of even my other religious friends, and Iâ€™m, well, this blog is a statement of my anti-theist position.
|Nate Downey speaking at Town Church's October communion feast|
Upon completion of his thesis, as part of the Acts 29 movement, Nate founded Town Church with friend Lane Kennard. The church meets Wednesday nights at 6:30pm in the Centerpointe Church building. I told Nate that I wanted to come and write about his approach to the gospel so he invited me to his October communion feast and agreed to send me a recording of one of his sermons. (Part 2 will be up shortly after I receive the recording)
As I pulled up to the house of worship I was reminded of the many houses turned tavern that subtly garnish residential neighborhoods of Midwestern cities such as Milwaukee. Nestled back in a neighborhood ofÂ Eureka California the church is, shall we say, petite. Removed from any internally portentous dÃ©cor and natural light the chapel feels like a basement. Walking up the steps, Nate, child in arm, welcomed me. Standing roughly a torso taller than your average chap and sporting a beard Grizzly Adams would admire, Nate has a calm presence that reflects the pace of life on the north coast while concealing his corporeal awkwardness.Â With a genuinely inquisitive nature Nate listens intently without any external discernment, and if you take the time to listen to him, he will tell you all about the marvelous beer cellar he's been assembling.
Conversing about our day, we walked into a chapel flooded with children. (In fact, if they had the aspiration they surely could overthrow us adults by sheer number.) Fortunately for us, though full of vigor, most were joyous and concerned with playfully chasing each other and eating pizza.
â€œI donâ€™t know if youâ€™re interested in coffee, but if you head to the back room you can help yourself to some,â€ offered Nate.
Being my drug of choice next to scotch I headed to the backroom and located the pot warming on the burner. I started to pour myself a cup, when â€œBam! Clang! Tsszzzz ttuttut.tut..tut...tttzzzzzz.â€ echoed off the walls. I turned my head, sharply peering over my tense right shoulder. A blonde little boy edged up on a stool with one knee up on the counter was rapidly downing thimbles of Christâ€™s blood from a silver communion tray. To his right the silver lid slowly spun to a stop sending beams of light flickering on the walls and across the fridge. Humored by the unrestrained child as he shucked dogmatic symbolism for the simple desire of juice, I thought to inform him that itâ€™s not good to get too in the habit of drinking alone but decided it would be best to notify one of his parents rather than intervene. Besides, who could blame the little tike? Had it been wine, I may have joined him.
Reconvening in the chapel, I grabbed a couple slices of pizza and sat down with Lane, his wife Michele, his sister, and a couple friends. They welcomed me and were intrigued when I told them about Vicarious Redemption. The main response I heard from almost everyone at Town Church was, â€œI should be doing that myself.â€
|Lane Kennard singing hymns about Christ's blood.|
After we finished eating Nate read a from 1 Corinthians 11 in which Paul explains that communion is not only about a personal relationship with Jesus, but also something that brings people from all social constructs together. Someone dimmed the lights and Lane sang songs, mostly about the redeeming power of Jesusâ€™ blood. Flipping through the song book, I was taken back by the inverse metaphors about what Jesus' blood turns into rather than what symbolizes Jesus' blood. I started to wonder if he believes in transubstantiation (based on what I know about Nateâ€™s beliefs, Town Church leaves that to the Catholics). While the sing along continued people gathered in their immediate families and at their leisure approached a corner table adorned with bread and a couple goblets of wine. Most paused for a moment and then took communion. Some fed it to their children, most of whom are too young to understand mortality or the symbolism. For a moment I pondered the question: is raising your child in a religion child abuse? I can answer this in many ways, and typically would answer yes, it is, but what I witnessed tonight didnâ€™t fall in that category.
I loved everyone at school and my church. I was told that love was Christ working through me, so I decided that I wanted to be around the unbelievers who, if showed Christâ€™s love, I could help save. I was warned that nonbelievers didnâ€™t care for others in the same way as Christians, and were not capable of true compassion since they were distant from God. I didnâ€™t care; I wanted to see for myself.
The cohesiveness of pertaining rituals solidifies group think, and although some people use ritualistic methods to install justice, the faiths that utilize such rituals are constructed around many flawed morals. I imagine thatâ€™s why, from what Iâ€™ve seen, the larger a church is the more often they call people up to the front to confess and be prayed for. I wouldnâ€™t be surprised if this routine of "laying on hands" increases church loyalty as well as allows for God's hands to reach into more pockets.
From there many thoughts and feelings are anthropomorphized into being Jesus. We synthesize our happiness, and through the ability of our frontal lobes to work as "simulator machines," we have authentic emotional responses.Â (Daniel Gilbert Stumbling on Happiness)