The Rev. Josh Longbottom, associate pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:
I love Lawrence. I love Lawrence because it is a progressive town. And, actually, that is the same thing that draws me to my faith community.
Christianity didn’t invent a new way to pray or a new mystical practice as much as it was an invitation into a new kind of community, a community of inclusivity and of egalitarian relationships.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the history of the church in all times and places. But it is what the church is supposed to be all about.
Jesus’ ministry was to the oppressed, to the poor and the marginalized. That same spirit is alive and well in Lawrence today, both inside and outside of the churches and other faith traditions.
Places where culture and faith intersect are all around in this town. I see it at Take Back the Night, the annual Gay Pride Parade or when we pushed back together against the proposed closing of SRS. In each of these cases, there were a ton of people involved both from inside and outside of the faith community.
I am sure that there are some differences between how people of faith see things when compared to others, but, much of the time, we are all united in this town by a common spirit of liberation.
Top of my list of why I like being a minister in Lawrence, Kan., is the spirit, here, is on both sides of the line. Here, we have people who are willing to push the envelope, are courageous and willing to stand up for what they think is right even if it might be unpopular. We have a town where a lot of people can feel at home.
— Send e-mail to Josh Longbottom at email@example.com.
The Rev. Gary Teske, pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 N.H.:
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I served with a Lutheran church in Papua, New Guinea. The culture was quite a contrast to what I had grown up with in rural Kansas. I remember for the first year or so, I was overwhelmed by all of the cultural differences. It was all such a contrast that they seemed to me to be from a different planet or dimension. However, as time went on, it dawned on me how much we were the same. Just like me and my fellow Kansans, they laughed and cried, hated and loved, were afraid and excited, lived with hope and despair. In spite of the cultural differences, we were all part of a common humanity.
When I was growing up on a farm located between Lawrence and Manhattan, I got the impression that there were significant cultural differences between the two schools and communities. The Kansas State supporters taught me to yell, “Kill Snob Hill,” and the Jayhawk fans taught me to shout, “Wreck Silo Tech.” In spite of how they characterized one another, each shared a similar campus experience.
I have no idea how to tie faith into a culture. But I think I am able, on occasion, to share my faith with people. I believe this happens best when you get past the cultural stereotypes, and we care deeply, and listen carefully, not judging a person or their culture, until we are able to know that person as the uniquely created individual that she or he is. I don’t believe we tie faith into any culture. I do believe that God can and does inspire faith in people who live in Lawrence, or Manhattan, or New Guinea, by means of the spirit of God at work through words and deeds that leaven lives and cultures with God’s love, grace and compassion.
— Send e-mail to Gary Teske at firstname.lastname@example.org.