New Offices!

My place of employment now has new digs.  And with a new office comes:

  • Re-potted plants
  • New neighbors
  • New view
  • Cleared out files
  • New coffee shops/restaurants to check out

My plants now have a cool ledge on my exposed brick wall with huge windows and they are so happy.  I might get cataracts – there’s so much sun in there.   Considering wearing sunglasses all day long to compliment the loft-esque qualities of our cool new space, since I’m feeling kind of hipster now.

Instead of being the only folks in the building, we now share space with assorted secular entities.  Our neighbors include a University of Illinois-Chicago office, a computer software company, and a pizza restaurant.  There are others too, but I haven’t met them yet.  On move-in day, I had the following elevator conversation with a guy named Steve:

Me:  Hi.  We are the new neighbors.

Steve:  Hi.  I’m Steve.  I work for UIC.

Me:  Hi Steve. I’m Jan.  I work for The Presbytery of Chicago.

Steve:  Hi Jan.  What’s the Presbytery of Chicago?

Me:  We work for the Presbyterian Church.

Steve:  ?

Me:  It’s part of the church.  The whole church.  Like a diocese, only Protestant.  And we don’t have bishops.

Steve:  So you’re Catholic?

Me:  No.  We’re Protestant.  Presbyterians.  The ones who protested the practices of the Church back in the 16th Century.

(We have now left the elevator and are standing outside in the wind.)

Steve:  ? So, you’re like a non-profit?

Me:  Yes, we’re like a non-profit.

Really.  This was our exact conversation.  (Note to friends:  nobody cares that we are part of the church.)

We now have a new view which reminds us every day that there is a big world out there that  doesn’t care that we are part of the church.

We have shredded literally tons of paper.  I read many of those files before they were shredded and now I understand – even better than before – why the institutional church has issues.

I have even more new friends to meet in the Greek Town eating establishments.  The people at Artopolis and Meli are among my new pals.  This is one of the most fun parts of being in a new space.

Just as Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, we have set our faces in a new direction.  We hope it results in resurrection.


10 responses to “New Offices!

  1. Love it! A new environment can be so invigorating!

  2. Jan, That sounds like almost every single conversation I’ve had in the past 6 years, if it even comes up that I was once a minister. The world at large has no clue and is absolutely fine with that reality. However, almost every single one of them has read Tolle or Chödrön and watched Oprah and has some sort of spiritual practice. The church just doesn’t figure into that equation in the least. Doesn’t even occur to them that it might.

  3. Laura – you are still a minister, sister. 🙂

  4. Well, we all are if we’re baptized Christians, right? 🙂 But given that I haven’t set foot in a Presbyterian Church (except on C&E with my mother) in six years and given that my experience is as described above, I have no inclination to ever live within the walls of a denomination again. So that does exclude some definitions of the word minister … but thank you for your inclusion.

  5. Hmmmmm.

    Could be wrong but I think the elevator conversation was heavily shaped by your location.

    I suspect the encounter would be much different in Dallas or Charlotte. I don’t think you’d have the complete bewilderment of Steve.

  6. I live in NC, ceemac. It’s the same all over once you step outside the bubble. Church to most people is what they see spouting hate on the evening news. Church (and specifically denominations and how they are connected, which was the content of Jan’s conversation) is not on the radar for the vast majority of people I come into contact with. Even people who grew up in church have quickly forgotten the difference between Presbyterians and Baptists and Catholics, because it just doesn’t matter to them in their day to day lives, the same way I can learn and just as quickly forget, the name of which sports team plays in which city.

  7. Laura,

    Thanks for the response.

    I followed your link. You not only live in NC but in my old stomping grounds. Grew up there. Malvern Hills and Bent Creek. Baptised at Bent Creek Baptist. Attended Vance, Venable and The Asheville School (yep a kid from Bent Creek going to AS. Probably would be unusual even today). Left in 1976.

    Became Presbyterian in college.

    I may have missed Jan’s point but I was struck by the fact that Steve was completely oblivious not just to Presbyterian but the concept of “Church” in general.

    I live in Dallas now. Most people here have extensive regular direct contact with folks who are active in Church so I think would be less oblivious to church in in general. “Church” is still part of the common cultural vocabulary.

    The two sort of reactions I’d expect here are:
    1. Presbyterians??? They’re one of those groups that don’t believe in the Bible aren’t they.
    2. Saying something like ….I used to go to church and vaguely references some negative experience. Or guiltily comments that they need to get back to church.

    Back to Asheville . I have not lived there for a long time and have no family there. I know it has changed a lot. Especially the city. Less so the county?? But even back in the early 70’s I had the sense that county folks were more more “churched” than North Asheville. I really have a hard time picturing the folks in Bent Creek and living on the roads up off of Brevard and Sardis Roads have given up church and are reading Tolle.

    • Hey Steve! Love Malven Hills and Bent Creek. My son went to Vance and now is finishing up at Asheville Middle. I live a couple of blocks off Brevard and am involved in numerous neighborhood groups, both social and civic, and I can say pretty definitely that, yeah, more people I’ve met read Tollë than go to church. Lots of my neighbors go to the occasional Buddhist retreat and the local Kirtan chant has been packed whenever I’ve joined in. Of course, Biltmore Baptist and West Asheville Baptist are also bustling, so plenty of locals are still very active in church. I just never seem to run into them in my daily life, so I don’t know where they’re hiding out. I’m very familiar with response #2, although rarely followed by the guilty need to get back to church. Those who do feel that way usually end up at the very active UU church in N. Asheville. But mostly for the kids program or the social activism. I just think it’s important for those who work within the church to really get how far it is from so many people’s minds. It’s not that they are worried about a particular theology or worship style, it’s just that it’s not on the radar at all. To go back to my sports analogy: I mostly know when large sporting events are happening because it starts showing up in my facebook newsfeed. I might be curious for about a minute. And then I move on without really learning anything or getting involved. My experience is that this is how almost every one of my colleagues/peers/neighbors feels about church. Personally, I’m fine with that. But if people within the church are not, then I think it’s important to take a position of appreciative curiosity toward it. Which is exactly what I think Jan does so well, which is why I love reading her blog. And yeah, I’m guessing it might be different in Dallas. 🙂

  8. Jan, I think we met at the Under-40’s conference at Montreat. I didn’t realize that you are in Chicago now. I was there for a couple of years when Ginny Smith was the Associate Exec. Blessings on this new phase of this journey!

  9. Pingback: Are We Really Saving the World? (Probably not) | achurchforstarvingartists

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