Tattoo storytelling & owning our un-orthodoxy

by susan on May 30, 2018

In a recent social media conversation, I was described as “unorthodox” (some of you are already starting to laugh).

While the rebellious part of me loved that designation, the pleaser part was left a little unsettled.

Me? Unorthodox? Is that a joke? Did I read that right?

While unorthodox technically means “contrary to what is usual, traditional, or accepted”, it can also be used to tell someone they’ve departed from the norm, started standing on shaky ground or taken a wrong turn. It can be a warning, a judgment even. There’s a fine line between being viewed as unorthodox & being deemed a heretic.

It may have unsettled me at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to own it. If you’re part of our Well community, you might as well start owning it, too. In a time when “church” has come to mean Sunday morning worship experiences, big buildings & budgets or conformity to a particular set of doctrines or beliefs, we are a little unusual. In a time when “faith” is often reduced to formulas & certainties, many of which are then used to determine who is bound for heaven & who’s going to hell, we are definitely a little untraditional. And, in a day when church often looks like judging, condemning & declaring some worthy of belonging & others not, we are a bit abnormal.

If you need more proof, just think about what we’re doing this Sunday.

Instead of hosting a worship gathering, we’ll be at Hyperion Brewery kicking off a summer brunch series with open-mic tattoo-storytelling. As off-kilter as it sounds, this will be church for us.  It’s one of the ways we are practicing the way of Jesus together & here are a few reasons why I think it’s an important occasion.

  1. Our stories are sacred & they need to be shared. One of the greatest gifts we can give is our attention & our willingness to receive another’s story without judgment.  These gatherings are opportunities to make space for stories to be shared, connections to be made & people to experience freedom & belonging.
  2. Tattoos also tend to be sacred. Other than the occasional regretted wild night ones, tattoos often mark significant moments on our journeys. They remind us of who we are or of what or who we hold dear. They are symbols of what matters deeply. Sharing about them can be powerful. Several of us have experienced this first hand at the Wild Goose Festival.
  3. Gatherings like these can be an opportunity to get out of our silos & to eat & talk & intersect face to face with a variety of people, some who don’t think or believe or vote or dress or live like we do. That’s a good thing & in our deeply polarized society, we need more of it.
  4. People are tired of hearing churches tell them what to believe & how to live their lives (as if churches are full of people who have that all figured out…). We need to do more listening to & less talking at our neighbors. We need more practice at giving the microphone away & receiving one another as we are.

I could probably come up with lots more, but I’ll stop there (this wasn’t meant to be a sermon!). I just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page.

Tattoo storytelling is not replacing church this Sunday – it is church. A little unorthodox? Yes. A little unpredictable? Absolutely.

Such is the path we are on, friends. Practicing the wild, unsettling & upside-down way of Jesus sends us in some unexpected directions. Some call it unorthodox & maybe they are right. Let’s own it & enjoy being exactly who we were created to be.

Hope to see you Sunday at Hyperion. We’ll be there from 10 a.m.- noon. Brunch & drinks will be available for purchase.

Peace & love,


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