Reimagining Church

Thriving Congregations Initiative: New Models for the 21st Century

God Can Be Funny

By Phylis Iqbal

Over twenty years ago, I purchased an old Buick station wagon complete with wood paneling from my mom’s Baptist church friend for $10. On the back of it, there was a bumper sticker that I never removed with some saying such as Glory to God or Jesus Saves. At the time, in our late teens, my friend and I would go to New Haven to just walk around and drink coffee. I had been raised and was very much steeped in all things Evangelical at the time. 

When my friend and I didn’t have parking money or simply couldn’t find a spot, I would pull right into the front of a large, towering brick church facing the New Haven green. I knew I wouldn’t get towed because my wood paneled station wagon complete with the Glory to God sticker made it seem like I was simply a church member. I would often look at that church and think how I would never set foot inside a place like that. I imagined it was a place that would be stodgy, stuck in traditions of the past, and uninviting.

Well, God truly has a sense of humor. In 2015, after returning to the New Haven area from Brooklyn, I stepped into that same building where I used to park my car (forgetting all about my teenage indiscretion) and began attending regularly. Becoming an active member, I could see how wrong I was about my opinion on Trinity. I found it to be a place that welcomed all and was progressive in their ideas for justice and peace for all in a way I didn’t see when I was a teenager. I never would have thought that one day I would be sitting in the upper room discussing the ways to reimagine how we do church. 

Our group is truly diverse in many ways. We have different education, cultural backgrounds and upbringings, and we are from different generations. However, I feel we are able to come together and share our opinions and thoughts on difficult topics and ideas, although that doesn’t mean we always agree. The space we have created has opened each of us to perspectives we may not have arrived to on our own and the journey will continue in some way even after our gracious seminarian student, Max, has moved on to his next adventure. 

There is still a lot of work to be done, but the shift has started and each month I see the needle of change move just a little in the church community as they open themselves even more to new ideas on how to do church. I don’t often see myself as a catalyst for change, but looking back at how my relationship with Trinity started to now, even I have to admit there was a plan at play that I could never have imagined. I’m happy to be included and invited to voice my thoughts and opinions on how to make church an even more inclusive and inviting place for all and I look forward to seeing where our work this year leads. 

Photo credit | Phylis Iqbal