Grocery store pastor

Today has been “religion in the public square” day at The Episcopal Cafe. From stories of Ashes on the run, to chaplains at the Olympics and Tiger Woods public apology. Now comes this story from The Washington Post about a DC area Pentecostal pastor whose congregation meets in a grocery store.

Somewhere between the produce aisles and Giant’s every-day-fresh bakery, the Rev. Anita Naves is working up a sweat. She is holding a somewhat surprised shopper’s hand, anointing his forehead with oil and crying out for the Holy Spirit to enter the man’s life and drive out all worry and doubt.

Nearby, a couple browsing the tomatoes looks on, slack-jawed. A woman passing by with a bottle of ketchup whispers “Amen.” And overhead, the PA system interrupts the prayer with an equally urgent request for help: “Cleanup on Aisle 3. Curtis, you’re needed on Aisle 3.”

This is what happens when the divine meets the mundane, when speaking in tongues collides with picking up milk, when God’s love is offered alongside the express checkout. You get weird looks, Naves says, as well as jokes and outright scoffs from the more hardened souls. But if you persist, you also find people desperate for someone to talk to — people who come in to buy cereal and walk out crying tears of joy and relief.

We Christians–especially Episcopalians– like to point out that Jesus did much of his teaching and ministry “in the world.” What would this look like today? Whatever happens, it is not tame.

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