I’m not at all about religion, but I can dig the good work that that Jesus guy purportedly did when he was around. As for his divinity, or anything else in the book, I leave all that to someone else.
What I will say is that I appreciate the conversational aspect of the service. While the observations made by congregants all seemed to be roughly in alignment with the views of the pastor leading the discussion, I got the sense that probably anyone’s interpretation would have been accepted, at least to the extent that the *person* is accepted, which seems to be the main point of how the service (and the whole campus) is run.
I like that the pastors dress down, in t-shirts. This is an important visual sign that you’re not trying to be hierarchical or authoritarian. I appreciate that services follow meals, not the other way around; it’s not a quid-pro-quo of duty-to-witness in exchange for nourishment.
I appreciate that the level of participation in other ways by congregants. In fact, it seemed only barely “led” strictly speaking, but very much a community effort, which is really quite beautiful. Whatever was important to members was given space, attention, and respect.
One man wanted his staff to be blessed by us all, and so we were all happy to grant his request and all lay hands on it as it was passed to the back of the sanctuary. Another man told a mostly coherent, if slightly confused, story about his transition from using to sobriety. A woman sang, unsure of the timing, but didn’t let that deter her from sharing her passion for music. Other members participated by playing percussion, inviting the offertory, leading prayers, leading us out with call and response, and providing church organ accompaniment.
I know from past experience with people in recovery, not to trust all first impressions; that sometimes the person you think is put-together and well-adjusted may be living with debilitating internal stimuli, while the apparent drunk might actually have the longest-term sobriety in the room. Careful not to pre-judge on appearances, I will say that there appeared to what I believe most observers would identify as a lively mix of grounded and struggling, old and young, middle-class and indigent, conventional and free-spirited, all in one unlikely community. Certainly it feels like the majority of folks there are probably very much in need – but how impressive how many of those needs appear to be met in this community – not the least of all, community itself.
I work at a holistic, progressive, and, for most, prohibitively expensive mental health treatment program. A short while after my visit, I spoke with a client receiving care at my workplace, who has also been to see Haywood in action, who said he was similarly moved by what he saw. I commented that I’ve often wondered what my workplace’s “integrative recovery/residential/healing community” model might look like, just out in the broader community, on the street level, as the fabric of a neighborhood, a family, a town… a congregation. A healing community that is accessible to anyone. I observed that it seems to already be happening at Haywood, and my client said he was thinking the exact same thing.
As I say, I’m not one for religion. I even tire of hearing about that Jesus guy, especially if it’s from hateful ideologues or self-made prosperity church millionaires, but even just from your average minister in your average church whose closest contact with the homeless is filling a box with clothes and canned food and assigning someone to go drop it off at Goodwill at Christmas. I don’t need Jesus to tell me that it’s good to be good and bad to be bad; that, more specifically, it’s good to help the poor, heal the sick, feed the hungry. If we’re to believe the Jesus story, there’s certainly no indication he ever asked to have a church founded in his name. But he was all about helping the poor, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry, so Haywood is one of the most truly, honestly “Christ”-ian places I’ve encountered.