Rachael Banks is an extraordinary woman. I enjoy every minute that I spend with her. She has a down to earth, hilarious approach to life. She is generous, loving and a complete nutter. Which means we get on very well. Rachael is a volunteer at Now and Not Yet Cafe in Warrandyte where I work as Volunteer Coordinator. It has been such a joy to get to know Rach, her family and her story. She has a unique perspective on Christianity. I know that her story will resonate with you because it’s a story that many of you share. Enjoy.
Do You Feel Like An Outcast From Church? An In-Betweenie?
by Rachael Banks.
For so long, I felt a little lost. A bit like I was wandering in a no-where land. Was I a card-carrying Christian or a non-Christian?
My belief in Jesus and his teachings hadn’t wavered. My comfort from prayer certainly never lessened, nor did my peace in the fact that heaven awaits me when my time comes.
But I had stopped going to Church before I hit my twenties. My traditional Christian friends stepped away not long after, making me feel like I had done something truly wrong or un-Christian (such a ridiculous phrase I know, but it’s the best way to describe how I felt). It was like I’d done something unforgivable.
For 16 or more years I felt this way, as an ‘in-betweenie’.
Then I stumbled upon a local café. The Now & Not Yet Café in Warrandyte. At the time, I was only actively seeking good coffee. What I found, was fabulous coffee, but also so very much more.
No judgement, no expectations of what a Christian looked, walked or talked like. Just real people, loving people, GOOD people, living life in the most positive, warm, welcoming and grateful way. No one even asked if I was Christian, they just welcomed me to the team when I offered to help out the not-for-profit organisation. They welcomed me completely, without reserve or without conditions. They saw another human wanting to actively help those around her in a constructive way.
To me, community is how I would describe what we are at the café. Essentially, what we do, how we work, how we interact with those around us, feels like what Church was, a very, very, long time ago. Before bells, whistles, super churches and the like, became the norm.
I have nothing against any of the above mentioned churches, I just personally never felt right there. I didn’t feel the all enveloping warmth, the acceptance as I am, and the true power to do more, that I feel as part of the café.
In my time with Church, I felt that I had to act a certain way, be a certain way, play a part to be accepted. I had to hold in true feelings and opinions, not step outside the box that was being a ‘good Christian soldier’. That completely got in the way of my living my best life. It made me feel lonely, rather than part of something. I felt like I was looking in on the window of something good. If only I could morph myself into this elusive mould of a Christian, that I never seemed able to attain.
Back in the day when my parents grew up, around 50 years ago, people went to church. Pretty much everyone did. It was just how things rolled. It was what was expected of any upstanding member of the community.
I have no doubt there were plenty of complete non believers that attended. Along with some people who had lost their connection with God but who could never actually vocalise that. Plus a hundred other types of attendees in between. All heading off to the local Sunday morning church meeting; because it was routine, it was what was done.
But Church was also a constant coming together of the community. It was where you found out all the good ‘goss’ (that bit still hasn’t changed), heard about who was down on their luck, who was sick or unwell, those whose crops were failing, and who was struggling to put food on the table. It was connection, inclusion, and for those without a big network of friends and family, it was a regular social gathering.
It was at these weekly gatherings, that plans were put in place to help others around them get through. Women set up casserole schedules to send to Mary’s family as she overcame her illness, men organised to lend out a tractor to the Wilson family who couldn’t afford to get theirs repaired, people threw extra money in the collection plate as they knew the church was supporting those in their own neighbourhood in every way possible. Everyone had the sense that we were in this life together.
Every time you walk into Now & Not Yet Café, that is what we are doing. We are working to ensure we support those in need, be they Christian, Atheist, Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist. PEOPLE. People who need help, people who need to belong. We assist: in housing asylum seekers, give food vouchers to families financially under the weather, we are a meeting place for social groups, help direct some to other professional services including mental health, offer employment and training to those we can. Equally as powerful – we sit and chat, share a smile, and connect with people.
To me, this is just what Jesus did. To me, this is what He asked of us.
To me, this is community.
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