“Our little group has always been. And always will until the end.” Nirvana

A little over eight  years ago, my wife and I rolled into a strange new town in a broken down van with $700 to our name and our asses in our hands. We were both unemployed and living in a woman’s basement, who my wife had only met for ten minutes in a Wall-Mart parking lot in L.A. six months earlier. We had moved to Portland, Oregon in order for me to attend seminary. Why seminary? The previous two years in L.A. had been utterly devastating for us – within a couple years, we lost everything and almost everyone in our lives: jobs, money, our community, children, our house, and damn near our marriage. I had this wild idea that I needed to go to seminary to find out what went wrong? I needed to know where I went wrong, how I had missed it, and above all I needed to know if there was any “good news” for people like us, people whose life looked like a Greek tragedy.

Two conversations from my first weeks at Multnomah seminary marked my entire experience at grad school and both conversations were with one of my seminary profs, Dr. Jon Robertson. It was my first day in school and one of my classes was Patristic theology (basically Christian theology from the early centuries – roughly the first 600 years). In typical fashion, the professor asked the students to introduce themselves to the class and tell the class why each of us was in seminary. When it came to my turn I introduced myself and then said to my classmates, “I’m here to find out what the gospel is.” Dr. Robertson interjected, “Well, of course you know what the gospel is. You are here to discover the deeper meaning of the gospel, right?” “Huh, well, actually, I would just like to know what it is.” Several weeks later, I was having lunch with the same prof and I began to share with him some of the painful circumstances that had precedded my arrival in Portland. Dr. Robertson asked me, “have you found a church community since arriving in Portland.” I told him that while I had attended several churches, some for several weeks, I hadn’t found a place to settle in. “The truth is”, I told him, “I feel like a spiritual orphan.”

Fast-forward eight years later with seminary graduation well in my rear-view mirror. We met some amazing people on our journey, several have become deep and abiding friendships – even dear family members have moved to Portland to join us in our adopted home. Now as I attempt to transition into “civilian life”, I wonder if I will ever find what I was looking for when I loaded up our old dilapidated Dodge Caravan and headed up to the NorthWest in the middle of winter. If I’m honest, one of the reasons that I have stayed off the “ecclesial reservation” all these years is because I was always secretly hoping that God’s “good news” might be that I did not have to be religious anymore (think, act and talk like a religious robot) in order to be loved and accepted by God. As for finding a “spiritual community” to live and share faith with, well I have started wondering if maybe the time has come to call off the search. When Christ was asked, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” He replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”

Okay, so this is the first post on a new site called, “the occasional congregation.” I would love it if this site became a place where people could participate in an “earthy” and honest discourse about things that really matter. My hope is that this site could support thoughtful ideas as well as unvarnished expressions of doubt and skepticism. If you know me, among my favorite forms of discourse is sarcasm and nay-saying. So welcome to the site. Visit often. Make it your own and help me make it a place where we can bring our friends!

15 comments

  1. Andrea Greenberg · September 30, 2015

    Like this! Feel like I’m on a similar path, but doing hard time in a place called Idaho. No community yet and not doing well. Just wanna go to a place called home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • celaird · September 30, 2015

      Yeah, I get that. For the longest time, the pain was compounded by the guilt that I was doing something wrong, but fortunately the clutches of that thing has been losing its power. We need each other, even if it’s an assembly of misfits, orphans and those exiled in Idaho!

      Like

  2. Steven · September 30, 2015

    Loved this

    Like

    • celaird · September 30, 2015

      I’m glad you liked it. I almost called you this morning but we’ll talk soon!

      Like

  3. Bob Bae · September 30, 2015

    Love it

    Like

    • celaird · September 30, 2015

      Thanks Bob. Just part of that “unbroken dream” of ours that keeps getting in our way . . . and won’t be denied!

      Like

  4. Johnetta · September 30, 2015

    Thanks for sharing. I feel sort of like a misfit myself. Misfit and all, I enjoy being in your company. I hope to stay connected to you guys. Can I visit now?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. celaird · September 30, 2015

    Hey Johnetta, thanks for coming to the “open house”! Apparently, the misfits end up finding each other! And, seriously, yes! Your room is ready . . . we’d love to have you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johnetta · September 30, 2015

      I hope to make the trip soon. I think I need to hang out with guys soon. I’m already in love with occasional congregation!!!!!

      Like

  6. Amanda B. Smith · September 30, 2015

    +1 🙂 I’m really glad you started this blog and are sharing your story so candidly with the world. We all need to know we’re not alone out there; That our own individual struggles and wins along “our” journey actually create paths where we intersect with the right people at the right times in their journeys. I know I’ve said it before, but I really believe that you & Maylannee are true pioneers of our day; and MY little journey has been made all the better having re-intersected with the both of you in yours just recently. Mark & I are so grateful for you both. YAY FAMILY! xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

    • celaird · September 30, 2015

      It’s so funny because, while I enjoy good blogs and interesting sites and I enjoyed my time blogging on a friends site some years ago, I have only been mildly interested in starting my own site. Truth be told, I kind of did it on a whim. Maylannee and I had been talking at dinner about how we are still learning how to detect and listen to Spirit. As we were finishing dinner, I just had this thought that I should give it a shot, so I hastily went to the computer, registered the domaine name, bought a generic Word Press site and started writing the first thing that came to my mind. Seriously, from start to finish, about an hour. I say all that because if there is anything to this, I think its one of those things which has always been “hiding in plane sight.” It’s what you say about “knowing we’re not alone” and how our individual “paths” end up “intersect(ing) with the right people at the right times in (our) journeys.” Thank you, Amanda. I couldn’t have said it better. So great to have you and Mark and Suki so close! Look forward to sharing this journey together!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. mark smith · September 30, 2015

    What a loooooooong, strange trip it’s been………….I can’t wait to hear the entire story sometime. Our journey has also been a roller coaster ride and we couldn’t have done it without you and May! It’s so great to be close to family again and to feel the love and support of everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

    • celaird · October 1, 2015

      Strange indeed, brother! Not a whole lot more to the story than that . . . there was that time during the first year in Portland when I was hanging by a “thin thread” and I walked into the deans office unannounced and told him, “I have murderous hatred for God” – that was fun! As for our tribe, super stoked to have you guys liv’n local!

      Like

  8. Ben Malick · October 1, 2015

    Glad to read your authentic words, Dude;-) I too am a wandered on the open plain of Kingdom. home is where the heart is, so I don’t concern myself so often with “finding or going” to a particular gathering. I am in the midst of multiple “gatherings” that explore Gospel truths all the time. It’s just that most days I’m too busy to be aware of it, if you know what I mean. I look forward to reading more. Keep it up.

    Like

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