We meet in my garage on Tuesday night. That’s so if you wanted to go to a normal Church, you could. Some of my friends still go to the big church on the corner, but most of them call 32 Calvary St their home base.
Let me introduce you to some of them.
John – he plays a mean guitar. He said he had learned some licks from his Uncle. He didn’t know many Jesus songs, but we love him belting out the stairway to heaven.
Mary – Her scones are her specialty. We have them each week with some diet coke, and we call it the last supper. Mary sometimes hears voices, and we help her by telling her the truth and reassuring her.
Nick – here is an interesting character. He had once been a high rolling businessman but then lost heaps of money and found himself on the street. He knows a thing or two. Shame and loss seem to fill his life. He’s our kind of treasurer.
Susie – Now this lady can talk. She could talk the spout off a boiling kettle. Actually, she is very lonely and needs others to hear her and sense their love for her. We listen and love as best we can.
J.C. – he is ugly. Ugly as sin. Scars and wounds all over his body. Even in his hands. It’s hard to even look at him, but we love him so much, and he loves us. One night, he told us that he was the Son of God, but we wondered if he was hearing voices or something. He is kind and caring and often has some very wise words to share from time to time. Strangely he is always here. He goes by the name ‘J.C.,’ and we still haven’t figured out his real name. Mystical kind of man.
Francis – or Fran as she liked to be known lives in a posh house on Baker st. She is retired now and lives on the pension. She had grown tired of the big ‘normal’ church where everyone seems to pretend and be nice. Pews full of folks with masks up and socially distanced hearts.
Jimmy – some of the ladies aren’t too sure around Jimmy. He has a porn addiction. We love him because, well, we all have our flaws. We listen to his failures and the hunger of his heart.
Teri or Terry – she/he was born a female but feels more male. We love Teri, and she loves us, and that’s all that matters. She’s on a journey like all of us. J.C. seems to have a special affection for her.
Bill – that’s me. I’m an ex-pastor for Jesus. I have a house, a garage, and a few vegetable plots in the back yard. The front deck is my favorite place in the universe. I sit there in the sun, read a book, and chat with friends, neighbors, and stray dogs as they pass by. Sometimes they come and rest awhile and sit next to me, and we go deep.
There are others too. It’s a place where anything can happen and usually does. It’s love, forgiveness, grace, and hope.
People from the big church come with their programs and personas. They want to change us and to conform us to what they think a church should be.
Some of them actually stay and sit for a while. They lean into the love we share and discover some morsels of love and wisdom. J.C. seems to be always at the heart of all that.
We sit on old couches, beer crates, and those cheap plastic chairs the rich people throw out when they begin to look a bit tarnished.
We have a donations box by the back door, and if you can put in a couple of cents, that’s cool. As I said, Nick takes care of the wealth. Sometimes there is enough to buy a few sausages for a barbeque. We’re actually saving up so we can go to the beach. Some of us have never seen the sea.
I suppose at the heart of Stray Dog is that we want to listen and love. Sure, some of us have plenty to say, but most of us simply want to be known.
I tried big church for along time. Sit here, sing this, listen to that. Give this, vote on that. Conform to a tightening square box.
Didn’t work for me. I simply like to listen to them, share a scone and a coke, and to laugh at their jokes.
People ask us why we call ourselves ‘Stray Dog.’ Well, it because we all have at times felt like stray dogs. Wandering from place to place, looking for a home and a meal. We have scavenged a few morsels from here and there, but no one has truly made us feel welcome for who we are.
Want to have a stray dog church?
Go out into the highways and byways and look for the stray dogs and find empty garages with old tattered couches.
J.C. told us once that he likes to visit friends in the ‘city streets, alleys, and country roads. They look like they need a square meal. They are the misfits, homeless and wretched’ Luke 14:15-24
This is the church, but probably not as you know it.
Quotes to consider
- The wounds you have experienced are valid. Maybe no one has ever said that to you, so I hope you’ll receive this now: What’s happened in your life matters. Aundi Kolber
- ‘Whom do we listen to and whom do we trust? Trust is essential to listening. Why do we believe the myth that the poor people don’t know anything and can’t be trusted? Where do you really find more truth about society – at the top or the bottom? Are the best solutions conceived in the corridors of power or in the neighbour hoods? Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem. Jim Wallis
- People with handicaps teach me that being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and caring together is better than caring alone. Henri J.M. Nouwen
- The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Questions to answer
- In your neighbourhood who are those on the city streets, alleys, and country roads. The misfits and outcasts? Do you know their name?
- What do we need to let go of to create a stray dog community?
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that the person who loves those around them will create community. What would that look like, on a vulnerable level, in your community?
Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.
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