My friend Ellen Painter Dollar writes a wonderful blog post remembering Gordon Cosby. Ellen and I worked together at Samaritan Ministry, and she introduced me to the Potter's House. I also had the good luck to go to several of Gordon Cosby's lectures and sermons, and also take several classes at Church of the Saviour:
Remembering Gordon Cosby
Word came to me this morning that Gordon Cosby, who founded the D.C.-based Church of the Saviour in the 194os with his wife Mary, has died at age 95.
The Church of the Saviour was the first Christian community I found that took both Jesus and social justice seriously, emphasizing both the “inward journey” (prayer, fostering a relationship with God, taking Jesus’s identity and ministry as Son of God seriously) and the “outward journey” (sacrificial ministry with the marginalized, particularly in the inner city, asking hard questions about wealth, poverty, and how we are to live).
The Church of the Saviour is not really one church. It started that way, but because intimate community was always an emphasis, eventually the church began breaking into smaller worshiping communities. A congregation of 50 people, in C of S terms, was huge. I worshiped for nine years at the Potter’s House Church, which met on Wednesday evenings at, you guessed it, the Potter’s House—a coffee shop, book store, and gathering place on Columbia Road in D.C.’s vibrant Adams Morgan neighborhood. At the time I was there, Potter’s House was one of the church’s larger communities. We had 20-25 members, and a congregation of 40 or 50 at each service. Membership in C of S communities is a big deal. You take a number of classes, which takes a couple of years, and then agree to a set of disciplines, including a tithe and an hour a day spent in prayer/meditation/study. There are no clergy; everyone who signs on as a member is ordained.
My time at the Potter’s House changed my life and set the course for a faith that incorporates an evangelical emphasis on fostering a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and a more mainline/emergent emphasis on ministry with those who are on the margins and a constant assessing of one’s life (What is my relationship with money? Stuff? Work? Family? Neighbors? The poor? And what needs to change to bring me closer to God’s vision of the kingdom?). I drank in the emphasis on discerning one’s call, or vocation. In a Christian Growth class I took toward membership, I remember saying, “I know I love writing. I know I love New England. I know I am supposed to have children.” Wouldn’t you know? Here I am, living in Connecticut, a mother of three, a writer. The Potter’s House Church set me on that path by helping me recognize those callings. At the Potter’s House, I frequently wrote original liturgies—a passion I have several times attempted to translate to my current life as an Episcopalian, with mixed success. Episcopalians don’t always groove on people messing with their liturgies.
I also met my husband Daniel at the Potter’s House, and a core of lifelong friends. We have all gone on to other places and other faith communities, most of us landing in either the Roman Catholic Church or another mainline denomination. But the bonds are still there. The people I worshiped with at the Potter’s House will always be my people.