I had a great meeting yesterday with David Loar, pastor of Fairlawn West UCC. His congregation has been on my “radar” for a while, mostly because of my awareness of his connection with South Street Ministries and Duane Crabbs. I think in the past when I went to Fairlawn West’s website I was intrigued by some of what I saw, but didn’t see enough to really compel me to try and make any further connection with them. However, when I happened upon their site recently, that began to change. I was drawn in this time by some of the language that I saw in regard to their “small groups,” which looked a whole lot like the cell groups I’ve been a part of in the past with Circle of Hope and have tried to re-create in a number of other congregations since then, including South St. I was also pretty intrigued by some of Rev. Loar’s language about “being the church” and his personal status as “an ex-hippie,” etc. So Kirsten, Samuel, and I went to Fairlawn West’s worship service this past Sunday, and the experience was such that we definitely want to keep exploring this congregation and its pastor, etc. Toward that end, I showed up for Rev. Loar’s “office hours” last night at one of my favorite local coffee shops in Akron, Angel Falls. Rev. Loar and I proceeded to have a great conversation in which I learned a great deal about local Akron history in terms of race relations, gender equity, justice issues (do you know why the big houses are on the west side of Akron?) and more, especially as all this relates to getting the “lay of the land” regarding the local church scene here. Though I didn’t come out of our conversation having much more hope for the institutional church in NE Ohio, it was helpful at least to get a little deeper understanding about why things are the way they are.
I did, however, come out of our talk with a little more hope for “finding my place” in a faith community here. I’m not necessarily convinced that Fairlawn West is “the answer” so far as that goes, but I do think that getting to know Rev. Loar and some of the folks that he knows will facilitate some relationship-building with a larger circle of (potentially) like-minded folks that is essential to fulfilling my (God-given, I assert with deep conviction!) need for “intentional Christian community,” whether through something as formal as an actual cell group or something more informal but hopefully no less meaningful. As always, time will tell.