Two weeks ago, Rev. Emily Hylden preached her last sermon at DOWNTOWN CHURCH and immediately left town. She had a plane to catch. The destination was Dallas where she and her husband Jordan were called to serve.
As a parting gift to us, she accepted my invitation to write a reflection on what DOWNTOWN CHURCH did to her. I purposely suggested the provocative title, hopeful that she would tell us what to do differently the next time we called a new pastor. Read on - I think you’ll be thankful that her quick exit had nothing to do with her feelings about DOWNTOWN CHURCH.
What DOWNTOWN CHURCH Did to Me
By: Emily Hylden
DOWNTOWN CHURCH made me fall in love again
Having spent my career working in churches that boasted buildings, I took for granted that I could slip into the sanctuary on a quiet Tuesday morning to pray, collect my thoughts, reflect on the readings for that Sunday’s sermon, and enjoy God by myself.
This also meant that Sunday mornings - when I used to help coordinate two or three or six services - didn’t have to matter very much. If I got distracted by unsettled details or hung up on a snide comment and missed the glory of Sunday morning, I could always go back and revisit it later that week.
DOWNTOWN CHURCH made it possible to grow our family
Worshipping at 701 required that I prepare super-well for Sunday morning; not only was there only one service -- only one chance to get it right -- but since we only got 60 minutes as a church community together, worshipping God and making that particular physical space holy, I didn’t want to waste a moment of it hung up on wrinkles, be they logistical or interpersonal. I learned to give my attention to what was happening right now in front of me, to cherish the precious, fleeting moments.
Because of a commitment to staff that the session made when DOWNTOWN CHURCH chartered, Jordan and I were able to rest assured that any child we welcomed into our marriage would be covered by my health insurance.
More than an employment benefit, this culture-shaping decision puts DOWNTOWN CHURCH in a very small minority of churches, and I believe, aligns this community with God’s Kingdom. Time and again, DOWNTOWN CHURCH makes its decisions based on what’s most honest, compassionate, and faithful, rather than the shifting sands of public opinion or the suspected effect on the bottom line. The sort of world that God longs for and promises uses the same metrics.
DOWNTOWN CHURCH made me pay attention
I started attending (and was later hired by) DOWNTOWN CHURCH at a time in my spiritual journey that I was doing a lot of asking, seeking, and knocking. On my very last Sunday, when I preached on Luke 11:1-13, I realized that this motley crew of people had eagerly opened the door when I was knocking about, desperate to fall in love with God’s people and with my vocation again.
In asking fervently to see Jesus anew, seeking for a community where my gifts would be received and useful, I came to knock at the door of DOWNTOWN CHURCH, and you all so joyfully opened your hearts and invited me in.