I am not making this up.
I found this church while out visiting my sister in Tucson. It’s not far from her house, and apparently, it’s a chain – there is at least one other like it.
After the heat wave last week, we can all appreciate the appeal of a cool church. If this one stays fresh and comfortable even in the crushing desert heat of Arizona, they obviously have a more powerful air conditioner than I do -- and a significantly smaller building, I add in my defense.
While that may be true, I doubt it is the intention of folks who named their church. So I have to wonder whether they want to identify themselves as the popular church – that is, well liked, especially by all the people who are themselves popular, which is sort of what “cool” meant in high school. Maybe like some innovative gadget or other promising novelty, some might marvel that this church is “cool” because of some new invention. They also might want to make clear that they are not that bothered by or interested in the things that another church often is, since there is an aspect of the word that means certain easygoing unflappability, possibly even aloofness.
Doubtless, these folks named their church this because they wanted to make it attractive, make it sound popular, new, and “laid back,” or some other word that means that it makes no demands. Aside from the promise of refreshment from the heat, I have to confess that few of its characteristics have anything to do with the real Church.
What is attractive about the Church, what she teaches and what she does, is attractive because it is true, not vice versa. In fact, sometimes the truth is not readily appealing, and not very popular at all! The Church is popular in the sense that is of and for people, but her foundation and design are from God; she is a divine institution. Popularity in the sense of being well liked is hardly a criterion, since from her very beginning Christ’s Church has been made up of unpopular people, the marginal and excluded.
And while the Church incorporates and embraces everything that is truly human, and that includes many innovations over the centuries, the divine element of her nature is eternal and unchanging. Every human life has a fresh encounter with revelation in Christ Jesus, which is called the Good News because the newness of the experience, not anything recent or invented about the message. Everything that is essential about salvation through Jesus has been consistently present in the Church for two thousand years now, even though that hardly makes it old news.
‘Laid back’ is a term I have never thought was appropriate to Jesus or His followers. He has a deep and abiding concern over the life of every person He encounters, and to save us from our own sin and its consequences, He sacrifices his own life – not just his own ease, but His life! How is that “laid back?”
So, while you know I am very proud of our HVAC in the church, you won’t hear me trying to convince anyone that the church is “cool.” Nothing is here at Saint Bernadette because of its popular appeal, or it is new and exciting. Nonetheless, we get pretty excited about it, and take its demands pretty seriously.
No, the faith of the Church is hard to consider cool. But anything you find here, you can be certain that I am not making it up!