How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord… Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars. - Psalm 84:1-3 (NRSV)
It’s Wednesday night at Bethany UCC in Chicago. A violin student is finishing up in the Sunday school room as folks stream in for support group meetings in the parlor and rec room. The girls’ basketball team from Pilgrim Lutheran is cooling down in the gym. When they’re done, the juggling club will take over. In the backyard of the parsonage, Music that Makes Community is singing in 4-part harmony.
And it seems to me that I am in the dwelling place of the Lord of Hosts. That I have entered God’s courts and processed all the way to the holy altar. But it’s just Wednesday night.
There’s a lot of talk about how churches need to fill up our space with renters if we want to survive. It’s true for us, I guess. But it doesn’t excite me.
Instead, I like to imagine us all as sparrows and swallows, finding little corners of this sacred space to make our homes. The Buddhist archers on Saturday mornings. The unionizing music teachers on Sunday nights. The neighborhood dogs enjoying the biggest patch of grass in a half-mile. The dude who comes over to hacky sack with his shirt off.
I like to picture us all, a divine ecosystem. Happy to dwell under the same roof. Finding the space for which our souls have been longing.
Thank you for the jugglers, the archers, the players, the singers, the supporters, and the home we share.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.