It is the second week of Lent and I am feeling it. So much bad news in the air. I woke on Friday to hear of a terrorist attack in New Zealand of all places, in the city of Christchurch. The news confused me because I kept hearing that it was an attack and murder of 49 people, and many others wounded in Christ’s Church.  The people who were targeted were Muslims during their prayer time. Again, I was confused, what were Muslims doing in a church. For about 15 minutes I had to do a reality check, did it matter if those who were killed were Muslim or Christian? No, not at all, terrorism is terrorism. The people in the mosque that was attacked were innocent. They were fathers, and children, women, friends all gathered to worship God, the Creator, Maker of Heaven and Earth. My soul is just crushed at the continued violence in the name of God. It just is not right on any level.

This week, I have also noticed an influx of people wondering where they can find an inclusive or non-judgmental church. People are looking for a place to belong, a safe place, where they can be themselves. First, there is no church, business, or community is non-judgmental. We are kind of wired to judge. Last week, at the Noblesville Chamber luncheon, I was reminded that there is a 7/11 rule. In the first eleven seconds of meeting someone, you will automatically make seven judgments about that person. We just decide whether or not someone is friendly, what gender, their economic status, their taste in clothing, their demeanor, personality, where they come from etc.

What is important is what you do with your judgments. Are you aware that you are making assumptions about someone? Do a self-check before you go any further, ask questions, and then tell your story. Because after all, the stranger standing in front of you is undergoing the same inventory. When people say they want a non-judgmental place to worship, they mean they want to be accepted, included, and celebrated.

This could be the test of whether or not you belong to a welcoming church. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Are there women in leadership? Do they preach and teach men, women and children? Are they invited into the preaching cycle of the church?
2. Does it matter the gender or sexuality of a person? Can a person who identifies as LGBTQ+ teach and preach, serve on leadership teams just like the heterosexual population?
3. Does the church welcome you and then try the bait and switch tactic? God Loves you, but God wants you to change or else.
4. Does your church let you ask questions and wonder about scripture and doctrine? Or does everyone have to believe what the pastor says? Is there room for differences of opinion?

Jesus chose the weirdoes and the freaks, the prostitutes and the tax collectors, stinky fishermen and even a murderer to be in his tribe. Does your faith community invite like Jesus?

- Noblesville’s Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at pastor@rolcommunity.com, on Facebook or at www.rolcommunity.com