Open Hearts Lead to Open Doors (or vice versa?)

One of my seminary colleagues posted his new sign outside the Unitarian Church that he pastors in the UK. While the language is familiar to us Methodists, the punctuation is not. What do you see that is different?

My friend's church:

The UMC's slogan (click to enlarge):

That's right, the colon, which grammatically means that the antecedent qualifies or completes the precedent. 
  • In my friend's church, they might be affirming (at least linguistically!) that Open Hearts are what lead to Open Minds.
  • In the UMC's statement, they might be affirming (again, at least linguistically), that the UMC has all of these separate qualities. 
 This started me wondering that if my friend is onto something and let's apply it to the UMC's statement of Open Hearts, Minds, and Doors. Which comes first: Open hearts or open doors?  
  • Open Hearts lead to Open Doors if a congregation has a conviction that Christ welcomes all to their church.  That conviction might lead them to open the doors for all (in the whole spectrum of what that means in their missional context).  Conviction leads to experience.
  • On the flipside, Open Doors leads to Open Hearts if the congregation is forced to deal with diversity and the spectrum of the human condition by opening their doors.  These shared experiences with people different from themselves might lead them to have Open Hearts and truly experience change.  Experience leads to Conviction.
  • In the middle is the Open Minds, which perhaps is the key to the whole deal.
I think it's important that any understanding of church be transformational: that one value leads to another leads to another. 

I actually like my friend's sign better than the UMC's because of the articulation of a progression rather than a listing of static values.  In a world that is more savvy to hypocrisy, perhaps we ought not focus on values but how our values shape and inform other values.  Maybe consistancy and webs of interconnected affirmations become as important as the values themselves!

So which direction do you think transformation happens in this context?  From conviction to experience, or from experience to conviction?  Or are they inseparable?



Jenna December 10, 2009 at 11:02 AM  

This is an interesting chicken/egg question that I think a lot of churches are asking. The thing that seems to remain the most important after our leadership team has discussed the issue, is that we remain open. No matter if it is a door or a heart or a mind, it is the openness that people will notice. Different people approach God or the Church differently, and for some it will be a mind change that happens first - or needs to happen first, for others a heart change, while some need to know that we have open arms first. This becomes more and more obvious to us (on our particular church's leadership team) as we realize just how diverse our own needs, wants, views, and approaches for God are.

Diane December 10, 2009 at 11:05 AM  

One of my favorite protest signs at General Conference one year was "Closed Doors. Broken Hearts. We Mind."

I love the links you're making with punctuation and transformation. I think that experience and conviction reinforce one another. I think that it is more likely for Open Doors to lead to Open Hearts, but this runs the risk of hurting the people you attempt to welcome if you open doors physically without first opening your hearts emotionally.

Rev. Sonja December 10, 2009 at 11:30 AM  

I think it is neither and you are thinking too linearly (but you do have that pesky y chromosome. jk) I see that it isn't a matter of what comes first but that all components are a part of the larger picture.

For most congregation all of them are available but not all of them celebrated. Reference the 1 Corinthians 12 passage on the body of Christ.

You will have some members of a congregation that are incredibly open minded, and embrace a broadness of thinking. Their influence on the others brings about an environment of open mindedness. Likewise with open hearts. Those whose heart breaks for the social injustices of the world. Their influence brings these concerns to light for others.

The open doors comes from allowing the open minds and open hearts to feel like they belong. It is more of a choice. It cannot be a forced structure, because then the openness is false, and it can come as a result of open thinking and loving, but quite often these voices aren't the loudest in the congregation unless the way of inclusiveness is already established.

As the church we know we are to have open doors, but through the years we have developed exclusiveness instead of inclusiveness. If we but choose to include even those who might make us uncomfortable, either from their social position or their thinking, then we have open doors. We may not have them for the right reasons, but they are open nonetheless.

Embracing the Open Minds and Open Hearts of our congregations makes the openness of our doors mean something.

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