i'm a christian, but i've been hurt by the church.
i watched as what i call an 'extreme christian' prevent my dad from ever entering a church again by showing up at our house, speaking out of turn, and scaring him off.
i witnessed church leadership call my brother a loser for rollerblading to the service, followed by weeks of verbal abuse, to the point where he never rollerbladed to the church again, or accepted a ride, either, and still hasn't over two decades later.
i had one lady 'rebuke me' [whatever that means] because she heard i 'swore at school', people judge me or the choices i made, others take advantage of me, some backstab me, a few overlook me, and a heck of a lot of people fail to follow through with their promise or commitment.
maybe you've been here, too. maybe, you, like me, thought [or think] that 'church is full of a bunch of judgemental hypocrites'.
truthfully, it took me a long time to get over all of these things. a really long time, actually.
in fact, for a year and a half, i built a wall around my heart in the name of protection and stopped going to church because of it. i knew my life was lacking something - i really did - but the risk of going back seemed too great; the less hypocrites i had in my life, the better.
but all of this changed when i stepped foot into the church in regent park a few short months a go.
i looked around and saw people of different cultures and race, backgrounds and class.
in one chair, a new immigrant sits. in another, a woman born in toronto.
one person has a job, another doesn't.
one man wears a dress shirt, another, a ripped - or shall i say 'holy' - one.
and my absolute fave, an intoxicated man sitting at the back, who decides to stand up in the middle of the sermon and serenade us with the best rendition of O Canada that i've heard in a very long time.
but get this - the pastor doesn't stop to yell at him. no usher ushers him out; he is welcome at the church in regent park. i am welcome at the church of regent park, and it took me all of five seconds to see how well i fit here.
i missed three weeks last month due to travel, sickness, and financial reasons, and i had countless people tell me they 'missed me the past three weeks'. like they noticed how many weeks i was gone, and missed me.
leadership thank me for coming and serving every single chance they get.
one girl, whom i just connected with this week, gave me enough cash to cover my transit next weekend to ensure that i wouldn't miss another week of church.
my pastors [who are also my dear friends] make me want to know christ more by the way they emulate him; they drive me to the GO station every week, hang out with me, and invest in me. even this weekend, we hung out for a few hours after church after they ever so kindly handed me a gift card to cover my groceries this week.
needless to say, i leave church feeling encouraged, supported, and closer to the reason we gather together every week, and hope that others leave the same way because of me.
all that to say this: christians are flawed [including me]; there will always be churches who 'don't get it' and people in each congregation [and everywhere, really] who say and do dumb things, but if we stick around long enough, we may just find treasures amidst them; treasures like those i have found in the church in regent park.