Loved You Are, Loved We AreEmail This Share This Tweet This
by Robin Dickey, Mercy Street member and volunteer
This week’s guest blogger is Robin Dickey, who worships at Mercy Street in Houston, a congregation that’s a part of the United Methodist tradition that believes the grace of God is available to all, offers forgiveness and calls us to a life of justice and mercy. TMF Grants Ministry supports Mercy Street’s outreach ministry that studies the connection between faith and recovery from substance abuse.
Twenty-one years ago, I was introduced to a place called Mercy Street. It was only three months old at the time. It took a lot to walk through those doors. For one, I was an atheist. But, more significantly, I did not trust religious organizations. I won't bore you with how I became a member and volunteer just a few months after that first visit; however, I will tell you why it happened.
There was (and is) something radically different about Mercy Street. Despite being an atheist at the time, I was very familiar with the Bible. Mercy Street was the first church I attended that consistently and very intentionally tried to adhere to New Testament principles. It focused on the love, grace, forgiveness and hope that make up an overwhelming majority of the gospels. One of the first marketing efforts I was involved with used the following: "He had long hair, hung out with the wrong crowd and got in trouble with the authorities. He's our kind of guy."
It spoke to the identity of our community. As former Pastor Gregg Taylor once claimed, "We are the island of misfit toys." A core principal of Mercy Street set in stone by the first pastor Matthew Russell was to welcome people into the community as they were. Or, in words, the message was "Come as you are." And they did. Recovering addicts came. Bikers came. The heartbroken came. Parolees came. The wealthy came. The poor came. And they all came together to become a patch work family of folks with a single purpose - to live in the love, grace, forgiveness and hope of God. The current pastor Melissa Maher is a deeply compassionate person who walks the walk alongside, not in front of, her church community.
What that looks like at Mercy Street is best summed up during the weekly time of celebration. If you want to know what Mercy Street is all about, just look at some of the things we celebrate:
- A career felon specializing in grand-theft auto celebrating driving buses to and from half-way housesso people like himself could attend church
- A same sex couple standing up in front of the community to celebrate 18 years of a committed relationship
- A mother regaining custody of her three children after successfully completing a 90-day rehab program
- A man living with bipolar disorder celebrating being medication compliant for a year
- A young woman celebrating her rescue from a sex and drug trafficking ring just six days before
Church isn't about looking and acting perfect. It's about discovering our place in God's story. (Side Note: If you want to read a wonderful explanation of this, check out former MS pastor Sean Gladding's book The Story of God, The Story of Us.) It's about accepting ourselves and others where we are. It's learning that failures are nothing more than an opportunity to grow in faith. It's about being real.
Come join us! You will find a community ready to welcome you with open arms.
Loved you are, loved we are.
Editor’s note about the TMF Spirit of Christmas Series: In 2018 TMF awarded grants to more than two dozen organizations to further their courageous, spirit-filled ministries. Our Spirit of Christmas series highlights the accomplishments of six ministries that inspire us to deepen our worship, increase our giving, love our neighbors and serve our communities all year long. Read our weekly blog posts and join our conversations on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.