House for All Sinners and Saints, first of its name, founded in 2008, is an inclusive Christian church; a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; located in Denver, Colorado in the United States of America; is on the third planet from the sun in our solar system in the Milky Way galaxy, which is one galaxy of up to 2 trillion galaxies in the universe. This is our manifesto.

We confess that  . . .

We confess that we are always sinners… and saints.

For too long, the Church has turned its back on the very people who need the Gospel the most because they didn’t talk right or look right or act right. As it turns out, we’re all “those people” — sinners, broken, in need of the grace of Christ. At the same time, we’re also all the chosen people of God, redeemed in God’s infinite mercy and love. Our identity is grounded in the recognition that we simultaneously fall short of God’s love, and receive it continually as a gift that has no bounds.

We confess that we are not experts.

We are all amateurs. There are no experts here–meaning no one understands the fullness of faith, the Trinity, or grace. This is why we share in leadership and why the pastor doesn’t do everything. This is why we count on everyone–from children to young adults to the middle-aged and older among us– to fully participate in the life of our community. Because all of us together are  learning, screwing up, growing– and in need of confession, absolution, and grace.

We confess that we will disappoint you.

At House, we invite you to come exactly as you are. With your flaws and strengths, joys and sorrows, hopes and fears. Because we show up in all our humanity, that means that sometimes, as a community and as individuals, we will fail you— we will say the wrong thing, neglect to take action, fail to do our part, or ignore each other. We confess that we have all disappointed this community and also been disappointed by it. We bear witness, that when we stay through disappointment, we experience and receive God’s healing grace.

We have learned that . . .

We have learned that the truth does, indeed, set us free.

We are storytellers, but we don’t tell just any old story. We tell stories that free us. In sermons, Prayers of the People, social media posts, conversations at Office Hours, and elsewhere, we’re hungry to tell the truth about ourselves, especially the parts of us we were taught are shameful. We confess so freely because we are no longer scandalized by our sin–instead, we are coming to trust that we are held by a God who loves us as we are. At HFASS, we are invited to speak the truth, knowing it will be received in love.

We have learned that we need the wisdom of our ancestors.

We learn from Holy Scripture and prayer, from the prophets and theologians, from the many and diverse faithful who have come before us. The rhythms of the Church and its ancient rituals continue to shape our liturgy today. God’s grace draws us into a stream that flows from the beginning of time, and we gratefully inherit the wisdom and insights of people who show us the meaning of the Gospel through eyes so different from our own.

We have learned that we need an open Table.

At the beginning of every liturgy, our minister welcomes all to the open Table. Everyone, without exception, is invited to come forward and receive the bread and the wine, which for us are the Body and Blood of Christ. The good news for us, and the bad news for our egos, is that, without exception, all are welcome to the table.  We need this weekly reminder that God’s abundant grace is always available to us. And also to those we might prefer to exclude. At the Table, we sinners celebrate the love of God that makes us saints.

We have learned that we don’t do this work alone.

Just as you cannot sing harmony by yourself, there is no liturgy without the people. Every Sunday, our ancient liturgy comes alive through word and sacrament, the baptismal font, and the people who gather in Jesus’ name. The congregation exists by God’s Grace and the work of our hands, prayers in our hearts, and the melody of our voices.

In fact, we have been blessed with a community of makers.  We make beauty, art, music, liturgy, food and community. We don’t outsource the things we need, but rely on the gifts in our midst to make church together. For us, making is a spiritual practice, a protest against blind consumption and perfection and performance. It is a brave and vulnerable acceptance of our humanness –that sometimes gets messy– and an invitation to connect with each other and with God through our sacred work.

We aspire to . . .

We aspire to find the gospel everywhere.

God’s grace is the common denominator that binds us all, and we seek, as our preachers do, to find the good news every day and every where: in the awful, the sublime, and the mundane.

Sometimes this feels like the worst good news–because grace shows up everywhere, often where we don’t expect, or even want, to find it. Grace feeds our souls and breaks our hearts, heals and challenges us, and –most important of all– never runs out.

We aspire to love what is and struggle for what could be.

We acknowledge that our world is a mix of grief and joy, failure and success, dreams dashed and hopes fulfilled. Shit happens. Yet, we long to believe that our reality, broken as it may be, is steeped in God’s love. This gives us the courage we need to love the world as it is.

At the same time, grace prompts us to struggle for possibilities still hidden–visions of justice and mercy, transforming the brokenness of our world into the shalom of God.

Therefore, we aspire to be “theologians of the Cross,” which is to tell the truth, to call a thing what it actually is. And we begin by confessing that the Church has betrayed you, that we have betrayed each other, and that we will betray each other again. Our hope is not in our capacity to improve our condition on our own, but in the grace, peace, and mercy of Christ.

We aspire to show up for one another.

HFASS can be a spiritual ER. Many of us are exhausted from life, addiction, depression, anxiety, family rejection, caring for loved ones, serving others at work and at home. Sometimes, even showing up for church can feel like a pretty big accomplishment. But showing up –for liturgy, for work, for parties– is one way that we help make grace real for each other. My healing is bound up in yours, so whenever and however we each show up, God’s love, too, shows up for us both.

We aspire to remain anti-excellence, pro-participation.

Our work together –the liturgy– does not have to be “perfect” to be sacred. We choose people over performance. What we do is rooted in the knowledge that we are not perfect, nor will we ever be. We’ll mess up, probably more than once. We’re still part of making church happen. Anti-excellence levels the playing field, inviting us all to participate, from the newcomer to the old-timer to everyone in between.

Above all, we aspire to share the Grace of Christ that has been given to us.

The cross of Christ, His death and resurrection, is a gift that is earned by none and given to all. We often struggle to accept this gift of grace as the final word: God loves us madly just as we are, today, flaws and all. As the priesthood of all believers, made one in Christ through baptism, we are all living sacraments, instruments of God’s grace, and we pray that God will continue breaking our hearts so that we may give away the grace we have already received. In the liturgy at HFASS, the pastor lifts up the sacrament and says, “The Body and Blood of Christ. Behold who you are, become what you have received.” We aspire, with God’s help, to do this: to be God’s sacrament in the world, to strive for justice and peace among all people, to respect the dignity of every human being, and to become what we have received.