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My son Tate is going through confirmation this year, and I am enjoying walking through this experience with him as a parent. This past Saturday, I went with him and ten other confirmands and their mentors to serve dinner and join in worship at Sixty-first Avenue United Methodist Church. (By the way, these eleven confirmands made up about half of our confirmation class. We have a total of twenty-four!)

Sixty-first Avenue UMC is located in north Nashville, about a mile from Riverbend prison, where our congregation is deeply involved in ministry. It is an industrial neighborhood, with a lot of folks living close to or below the poverty line. The church is a beacon of light and hope in that neighborhood, offering after-school tutoring, an extensive “Last-Minute Toy Store” at Christmas time, and lots of other ministries that offer food, shelter, clothing and love to folks in the neighborhood.

On Saturday evenings, the congregation serves a free meal to anyone who wants to come. Then they gather for Bible study before going into worship at 6:00. Our confirmation class prepared and served the meal this past Saturday, and then joined the congregation for Bible study and worship. As I leaned in and listened to the Bible study, I saw something else that that congregation offers to their neighbors: loving community.

Pastor Paul Slentz led the Bible study, and he invited us to read Romans 6 together. (Take a moment right now, if you’d like, and read it to yourself. It’s not long.) He then asked the question, “What are some things we might need to ‘die to’ in our lives, in order to follow Christ? What things might we need to turn away from?” The first person who responded said, “Drugs.” Wow. I was inspired by her openness and vulnerability.

And I realized right then that this was a safe, loving and honest community, not just for the folks in the neighborhood but for all of us. This was a community where we could name out loud, in the company of other imperfect people, our deepest struggles and brokenness. This congregation was modeling for all of us–especially our young sixth-graders–how to be a loving forgiving community and how to rely on God for everything.

As you know, this is the season of Lent. We are entering the third week of our journey toward the cross, this journey of examination of our own souls. If you’re like me, you’ve come across a few things in your life that are broken, a few places where you need healing and redemption and forgiveness. My prayer is that we can all find people within this congregation who can hear our brokenness and love us through it. Maybe it’s a Lenten Small Group. Maybe it’s a Sunday School class, or the Men’s Dialogue Group. Maybe it’s just a special friend that you have coffee with. But this journey of Lent is one that we are called to walk together. May we find ways to offer loving community to one another during this season and always.