It was the summer of 2014, if I remember correctly, when Ryan and Dylan and I began the thing. It was nothing more than a few fellas getting together for beers and football while Mrs C slept in, which is what she does. We went down to a local watering hole – I honestly don’t remember which one for certain – some time before the summer of 2014 and hung out on a Sunday morning. Beers. Laughs. That kind of thing.
One day, again this was the summer of 2014, we were at one of these gatherings when I looked up randomly and saw the strangest sight. It looked like the Burger King guy, in a Matrix pose. Then I saw the checkered sphere. Then I saw the crown of thorns.
“Wait a minute,” I said, interrupting the person next to me in the middle of their story.
I’m prone to that, by the way. If you’re going to come drinking with me I’m going to interrupt your story. A lot. Fact.
“Is that Jesus kicking a soccer ball!?” I exclaimed, arm outstretched and finger pointing.
They didn’t see it at first. It’s high on a shelf in front of the biggest TV in the room, located centrally above the bar at Shameless.
No, down there. Below the TV. On the right.
They finally saw it. We asked the bartender, Troy at the time, to bring it down. We were in awe.
Our Sunday morning ritual became “Church.”
Now, mind you, I’m an atheist. Or agnostic, at best. The difference being, of course, that an agnostic doesn’t believe in any gods but accepts the fact that anything is possible. I believe anything is possible, except the silly religions that we have made up here on earth. They don’t make sense. But it’s what we do as sapiens, we make shit up. Since the dawn of mankind we have made up gods to satisfy our curiosity, and there are – by some counts – hundreds of thousands of them now. You may believe in one of them. I believe in none of them. That’s more atheistic in my mind than agnostic, but label me as you will. But out of the hundreds and thousands of fictional gods in the history of this planet I believe in one less than you do. I mean no offense by that, and 100% honor your right to believe as you will. Amen.
Still, we had a “church.”
Over the next couple of years the congregation grew. Generally, we’ll have at least half a dozen in the pews on any given Sunday. Sometimes we’ll have 15 or 20 or even more. Church is never mandatory but all are always welcome. You don’t have to announce you’ll be there, just come. Stay as long or as short as you like. Your face, and your hug, are always welcome.
Somewhere along the way I became the pastor.
“Pastor Tom,” they began to call me. Maybe because I’m fatherly. Possibly because I was the first to notice Jesus kicking a soccer ball. Probably because, during any quiet or raucous moment during church, I will repeat that first phrase again randomly at every gathering. “Wait!” I’ll say, “Is that Jesus kicking a soccer ball!?” Everyone always stops and looks, and we’ll usually gather a couple of newcomers to the awe that day.
So I became “Pastor Tom.” The head of the church.
Sometimes we’ll call it “Sunday Church.” Sometimes we’ll call it “Football Church.” We’ve been known to call it “Saturday Church” on occasion, and whenever anyone in our amazing group opens a can or bottle of anything, anywhere in the morning it becomes church. Road Church. Reno Church. Any morning anywhere can be a church. Whenever two or more are gathered together in our name. Amen.
You can join, too. Just lift your spirits high, snap a photo, post it somewhere we can see, and say “Boston Church.” Or “German Church,” or “Canadian Church,” or wherever you are right now. Church knows no borders.
Last night, while out for a birthday celebration for our dear parishioner Becky, I was humbled by a request I never saw coming. She recently rekindled an old romance with a fella we all loved and had lost touch with, and they decided to stick together. They decided to make it official. They decided to marry next June.
And last night, they asked Pastor Tom to perform the ceremony.
After the blubbering “are you sure?!” and “you know I don’t really believe in any denomination of any religion, right?!” I said yes. Of course. But I did ask why.
“We want someone we know and love to do it, someone who’s funny, speaks well, and isn’t afraid to talk in public. We want you, Tom.”
I would be honored. I am.
I am a humble man. I can be boastful at times. Wrong-headed. Superficial, ignorant, insensitive, stubborn. I can be all of that. I can also be sublime. Transcendent. Loving. Strong. I am a humble man.
I am proud to announce that I am ordained. Chosen not by gods to perform rites, but by friends. Loved ones. The greatest people in the world. My congregation.
So if you will do me a favor on this Sunday and lift your glasses high to Becky and Dustyn. To love renewed. To the people of my church. To all the gods, real and fabled. To Pastor Tom. Amen. Thank you.
You are all my family now.