With hundreds of side and parallel events during CSW, the logistics of assigning times and room sizes (capacity ranging from 60-571) based on expected turnout and technological requirement is a best-guess adventure. It's impressive to see the coordination.
A few times I've arrived at my intended location for a session to discover a closed door. Sometimes, an event fills to capacity, and that's that. In those times one can head to a different event, or engage in conversation with fellow delegates or new connections.
At one event, however, we encountered locked doors: there was no signage, no one we asked knew what we were talking about. It was awkward, as more and more people arrived for the event, and we were standing on the street corner. As it turns out, the host building intended us to use an unmarked side door (with a different street address altogether), that necessitated buzzing in. When we were finally sorted, someone said "we all knew to come to this door, we didn't think of putting up a sign."
Hmm. Not exactly helpful.
It made me wonder how we, as the church, open our doors to the world. Do we provide enough information for people to find us, and come inside? Have we marked if our office door is at the back, or if there's a buzzer to ring if it's locked? Those f us within the church may be accustomed to our practices, but unless we are clear, we may inadvertently send a "closed" message to new folks.
It also made me wonder about how we, as the church, open ourselves to the world. Are we willing to see the homeless person on the corner as a beloved child of God? Are we able to open our hearts to extend kindness to someone who is cruel to us, realising that they are simply lashing out from a place of deep pain? Are we capable of opening our ears to hear stories of injustice, and be compelled by the Gospel to take action?
When we open ourselves, we are making ourselves vulnerable: we are engaging with someone else in ways that may cause us to change, to grow, to see the world differently. But should we remain closed, we will never see the benefit of new friendships, we will not engage in the healing power of reconciliation, we will reject the possibility of new ministries. Should we remain closed, we are telling people that their experience is unwanted, because it is different. "We know what we do" suggests that church is a secret society, a members-only club, rather than a community collected to praise and pray and serve.
The door to the event was closed; but the teachings of the speakers were not. This invited us, as listeners, to ponder how we might open ourselves and engage in justice work.
And we learned that we need to be clear in letting the world know where to find us; that we will be waiting to welcome them - at any age and stage; that we are faith-full enough to bravely embrace the hard work of BEing the church, striving for peace and justice. I expect that when we bravely fling open the door, we will find ourselves awed by the beauty of an enlarged reality, invited into a mission zone, embraced by the power of the Spirit that has finally been given a way in.
May we find ways to remove those doors, to never be closed to the cries of the poor, the lonely, the hungry, the oppressed... but rather be a community which actively participates in God's work for God's world.