Novelist Anne Tyler developed the concept of The Church of The Second Chance in her novel, Saint Maybe. Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has taken the concept a bit further from its storefront adding a bit of clerical dressing to it in his writings.
I am a fan of the concept. A soul, ragged in grief and guilt walks into the storefront church whose sign says: The Church of The Second Chance and timidly seeks guidance. Despite the fact that the church is splintered from a mainstream Protestant sect, it really gets to the core of the Gospel. No matter what you have done, no matter your sin, the mercy of God is wide-but you have to make a bit of reconciliation. That way you purify yourself. You make yourself complete, you become the person God made you to be. God reaches into your soul even if the reconciliation isn’t there. God waits. So, why not do the reconciliation asks the minister in Tyler’s book.
I’m afraid many of our places of worship do not demonstrate a theology of the second chance. Consider the prodigal son, the woman caught in adultery, the sly and rapacious tax collector among the many that Jesus used as examples of people needing a second chance. That is what confession, or reconciliation, is all about in the Catholic Church. The minister is asked to cut through the curtains of canonical restraints and apply pastoral efforts to hear the heart that needs to be healed. Are you a person standing at the parish threshold, divorced and remarried? Come in! Are you an addict struggling with the demons of possession? Come in! Are you in a relationship that might be seen as questionable at best? Come in! Are you guilty of violence to others and yourself? Come in! We will gather all these issues, walk with you into restitution and healing and you will thrive as a member of The Church of The Second Chance if only you come in. Imagine if the marquee of every church gave its name and religion and underneath it read: The Church of The Second Chance. Churches might be bulging at the seams because many people are looking for a second chance and not the rules of the game.
In this Pentecost season we can pray for guidance on how our individual parishes might become renewed intentional communities where a person’s skin color, nationality, sexual orientation, marital status, or history of reckless living, becomes part of the yeast in creating a loving faith community. It does not matter if the vestments are flowing in brocade and lace topped with birettas (look that one up). Nor does it matter if the bells ring during elevation, or the Gregorian chant is perfectly invoked. What does matter is that the core of the parish community is the second chance it gives through intentional love and acceptance of everyone who opens its doors.
The post-Pentecostal church should be The Church of The Second Chance. The old playbook for the Jewish community did not work-not because of its religious beliefs but
because it got out of hand relying more on law and not on Jesus’ core teaching. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit ignited the zeal of the apostles and The Church of The Second Chance was born. Now everyone can come in: Gentiles, Jews, Greeks, Romans, tax collectors, prostitutes. You name them, they are all welcome.
Now begins the adventure of The Church of The Second Chance.
If you belong to a parish or faith community of any kind, what can you do to open the doors for anyone who needs a second chance?
Did you ever stand at the threshold of a church and feel fearful? Did anyone help you feel welcome? Or, are you timidly standing at the door of a faith community and hoping to be asked in? Let us know your experience. It will help others reading this post.
God bless all of you: my beloved followers and Anonymous Angels!