We moved to Columbia in June 2014. Along with our four children, we quickly began visiting local Episcopal churches. After visiting about ten Episcopal churches over a year or two, we finally settled on a small church south of Columbia. Unfortunately, shortly after committing our family to attending this church regularly, the parish lost its priest and began to fall apart. Our hearts were a bit broken - we had finally found an Episcopal church that modelled our family values of diversity and acceptance …and it folded shortly after we joined! After months of simply not attending church at all, we ran across a Facebook posting of a sermon from Pastor Tim Bupp. We were impressed by his passion and decided to visit, even though we were not Lutheran nor had ever attended a Lutheran church service.
Our first visit went quite well and we enjoyed meeting the congregation and speaking briefly with Pastor Tim. Shortly thereafter, we were shocked by an invitation for our family to come and have dinner with the Bupps at their home. Upon visiting with the Bupps and hearing about their values and beliefs and how that is expressed in their Lutheran faith, we were ready to go all in at Reformation. A couple of months later, our entire family joined the church officially and began to serve in the parish in a variety of capacities.
We are happy and proud to call Reformation our home.
Jim was a member of Reformation when he and Julia met in 1979. Julia became a member following their marriage performed by then Pastor Jim Nichols in 1982. That would make us among some of the most senior members of Reformation meaning we have been through the many highs and lows of RLC for nearly 40 years. The most important reason we love Reformation is the message of love and reconciliation, the gospel of salvation by grace and the commitment to justice and equality that is the underlying mission of our ministry. From the beginning we were loved and accepted as a new blended family by older members of the congregation, many who now rest among the saints. As we moved into the 21st Century, Reformation was declining in membership and struggling to be relevant in our community. We were very conscious of the fact that historically we had not been welcoming to all of our neighbors because of their race or sexual orientation.
These were our neighbors; it was important to us that they find a welcoming home at Reformation so as a church, we began a dialogue on human sexuality, acceptance and inclusiveness. Our proudest moment at Reformation was the almost unanimous vote to become a Reconciling congregation and the subsequent door-to-door canvasing of the neighborhood to spread that word. The resulting reputation of Reformation as a welcoming congregation continues to reward us through new friendships, new ministries, and new ways of outreach in service to our community. We love the rich heritage and traditional liturgy of Reformation and we love contributing to the growth of that heritage in new and inclusive ways.
Why Parking Lot Worship?
If you live near Reformation you will hear beep beeps on Sunday mid mornings. It is a sound from our weekly parking lot worship on FM 99.9. This has become my choice for worship. Here are five quick thoughts about why.
1. I get to GO to church, but safely. To go means I have to stop what I am doing, prepare and take time. It requires a commitment and it helps me settle down and focus with fewer distractions. It is safe because I stay in my car and at a distance from other cars.
2. We have weekly COMMUNION. My spiritual life is fed and nourished even as we sit in our cars with our individual pack of bread and wine. God comes to us. We unite as God's people when Pastor Tim says "The body of Christ given for you. The blood of Christ shed for you." Indeed, thanks be to God.
3. I like being in COMMUNITY with others. I'm even learning who drives which car. I miss the people when the cars are missing. I love our welcoming and hospitable ushers who give out bulletins and communion packs and help us park and leave safely. Being greeted and welcomed makes me feel connected again. We've even done some projects as a community doing God's work with our hands for Souper Bowl & collecting coats.
4. I like our LITURGY. Yes, Pastor Tim leads the liturgy and we respond. We hear the word in scripture and preaching. We share the confession, kyrie, creed, prayers. And, yes, we sing in our cars guided by the recorded music from Josh. We can make as much noise as we like, or as little. It's a joy to praise God, thanks to FM 99.9.
5. I like the horn beeping PARTICIPATION. "Welcome." Beep beep. "Can you hear me?" Beep beep. "Go in peace to serve." Beep beep. And we even share the peace from our cars with enthusiastic beep beep. (Sometimes I send God's peace text messages to folks instead.)
Parking lot worship has been good for me!
If you've missed your church family,
If you've missed holy communion,
If you've felt disconnected,
If you get distracted at home,
join us for a safe and social distanced community at worship at 11:30 on Sundays. Bring the family for a safe church gathering. (Enter from Columbia Ave; depart to Union St.) See you there.
I’m convinced that God used a heavily tattooed, reformed alcoholic and drug addict–turned Christian author and ordained minister—and Google . . . God used Google . . . to get me to this place of worship.
I missed church. I missed the worship, fellowship, and community. I especially missed the music. Since childhood, church had always been an integral part of my life; but, having not attended for more than a decade, I was longing for a church home. I visited a few churches but nothing clicked for me.
A few years ago, after reading Nadia Bolz-Weber’s books, I thought that if I could find a church like hers in Columbia, I know I’d show up! I entered a few words on my computer search engine, and Reformation Lutheran Church was first on the list. I showed up the following Sunday.
I invite you to join us! RLC is what church should be—loving, welcoming, and affirming to all peoples. I am aware of God’s spirit at every service, and I am grateful. I thank God for Nadia Bolz-Weber, and for Google.
I thank God for Reformation Lutheran Church.
I (Mike) was raised in the Catholic church and attended private Catholic school from grades K through 12. As soon as I graduated I fled the church for fear or them finding out I was gay. It wasn’t until many years later, shortly after my partner of 15 years passed away, that I started searching for a place to worship, a place where I would be accepted for who I really am. Needing the help and support from a community based in the teachings of Jesus Christ, I found all of the people at Reformation Lutheran to be very welcoming from my very first visit. What I didn’t expect was the affirmation of who I am as a gay child of God. I soon discovered that I was not simply being tolerated and there would be no push to change who I am in order take part in a full relationship with God and with community. At Reformation, I am celebrated and encouraged to participate fully in the life and sacraments of the church. This place is my home and these people are my loving family.
I (Bryan, a recovering Baptist) was raised in mega church and realized as a teenager, I didn’t hear the message of Christ in vitriol preached as gospel against the LGBT community. During the following thirty years away from the church, I never lost my faith – just a place to worship. Neighbors invited me to visit Reformation where, on the first visit, I was greeted by an older member who shook my hand, looked me directly in the eye and said, “I’m so glad you’re here.” Wow! Did he really mean that? In fact, he, and the entire church really did. I was suddenly surrounding by fellow Christians who loved - not just tolerated - me just the way I am, and welcomed me to participate in every aspect of the church.
Bryan and Mike met soon after they began attending Reformation. Two years later, they married at the church surrounded by family and friends and began a journey together of worshiping and serving in the many ministries within the church.
I grew up in a small rural town in South Carolina, Baptist from birth. Two things do not mix in the South: religion and gay. Thus, I did not attend church for over 20 years due to my sexual orientation. I did not feel welcome and accepted.
In 2010, a straight co-worker shared that Reformation is a place where the doors are open to everyone. She kept saying, “All are welcome!” I’m still in the South, so I pinched myself, sarcastically thinking, “Sure, everyone is welcome.”
Well, with my first step into the narthex, I was met by people who truly welcomed and accepted me into their church. They were different ages, races, genders and sexual orientations. But, I noticed how it really didn’t matter to the members of Reformation. Everyone is welcome! How could this be? Well, Reformation went through a “reformation” and became a Reconciling in Christ congregation in the Lutheran community. Reconciling in Christ is publicly welcoming and accepting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. There are just over 800 Reconciling in Christ congregations, synods, colleges, seminaries and other Lutheran organizations in the nation. Reformation’s transformation into Reconciling in Christ (RIC) is the result of very open-minded, accepting straight Christians, who were led by the Holy Spirit to begin an awesome journey of welcoming and accepting all people to worship at and be a part of the ministry at Reformation.
To me, this is the most important thing that sets Reformation apart from other churches. The members of Reformation are sharing a faith journey toward love and acceptance for all people everywhere!
Larry and I moved to Columbia March 1, 1970. I had always been active in any church where I was a member and we didn’t even visit another church. The pastor at RLC then had been my pastor when I was in junior high and high school. At that time RLC was a very “cold” congregation. If you weren’t a local then you weren’t welcome by the majority of the members! But those who know me know I don't sit back and wait to get involved, so I wiggled my way in and became very involved. As the years passed the membership got smaller because of “white flight” and deaths of older members. There was a time when the sanctuary would be filled to become a time when had only 40-50 at worship. So sad. There was a time we were a broken congregation.
Our Church leadership decided we would do Transformational Ministry - Change what we had been doing because it wasn’t working. After much studying and involving all the membership, we voted to become a Reconciling in Christ congregation. For the next few months, we had members who knocked on the doors of Earlewood. Elmwood and Cottontown. The first Sunday in January we began our new ministry. Personally it was and continues to be a wonderful experience. My life has been so enriched with the friends i have made in the past 10-12 years. Reformation has blazed the trails for other churches in South Carolina to “Lift High The Cross” of Jesus Christ so that all God’s Children are welcome in this place!!!!
I moved to South Carolina from Puerto Rico in May 2014. In my country I had been very active in the Catholic Church. When I moved, I started visiting the Baptist church my aunt and uncle were members of. I knew I was in non-LGBT friendly territory, but I practiced the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy. Everything was fine until one Sunday from the pulpit, the pastor condemned the country for its acceptance of homosexuality. That was my last Sunday at that church! After that, I visited other "welcoming" churches nearby but they were challenged in the welcoming part.
I had read about Reformation Lutheran online, but I had no idea what they were about. In my entire life, I had only met one Lutheran person and she was the weirdest person I had met, so I wasn't brave enough to try that religion.
However, on Pride day that year, I was walking up and down the festival grounds with a friend and we stopped by Reformation's booth because they were giving out candy. At the booth two members gave us a flyer about a welcoming service and lunch the next Sunday assuring us, “You should come visit us, we'll love you!" And that they did!
It was very refreshing to be welcomed to worship with them, and to participate in communion, which I had been denied for many years. Even after four years as a member of this church, I still cry during communion. It means so much to me that we're not only welcomed here, but also invited to the Lord’s Table to be nourished body and soul.
In late 2008, we saw an article in the newspaper about a Lutheran church in Columbia that was just starting a Reconciling in Christ (“RIC”) ministry. We were not happy at the time with the church where we were members, and decided to visit Reformation Lutheran Church the next day for its initial service as an RIC church. As it turns out, since that day, we’ve never left. In 2015, we moved to Georgia. Helen had just retired and Jerry was fortunate to have a job where he could work from home, and after a few years, Jerry retired also. We maintained our membership with RLC, and we certainly assume we always will be members. Although we have attended other churches since our move, and even became involved with a local United Methodist Church, we have not transferred our membership. We both have to say, it is just not the same. We miss RLC so much. We will remain members of RLC and will continue to follow and support RLC. We still have family living in Lexington, so we are able to visit RLC on occasion; but certainly not as much as we’d like to. With 2020 being a strange year, and everyone experiencing a remote setting to attend church, we have felt reconnected with Reformation. With the Reconciling in Christ culture, the welcoming nature of the church, and all the things that go along with that, we feel RLC is so genuine in what Christ taught his disciples. As we state, and try to live to the fullest, everyone is welcome at Reformation Lutheran Church. We firmly believe the church is trying to live and uphold the greatest commandment of all, Christ’s greatest command: love others as I have loved you. Agape love – unconditional – to all people. We have not found that feeling and sense anywhere but in Columbia at RLC. We miss our friends. Everyone is so friendly (and welcoming) at RLC. Also, RLC is taking the pandemic seriously. Most of our local churches in Georgia are not. Sometimes it seems like some worship services are used to present a show or performance. We don’t feel that way with Reformation. Again, it feels real. We never knew a place like it before we discovered RLC; and have not witnessed another place like it since. Our remoteness is based on where we live now; others are also experiencing it right now due to the pandemic. We are all waiting for the “other side” of the pandemic. It makes us all miss the in-person opportunities, and it will mean we’ll cherish them even more once we are back to the ‘new normal’. For us personally, it’ll make us more mindful of making the trip to Columbia to attend RLC and see all our great friends and fellow worshippers.
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