“God is the Owner, I am the Ower”
I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was stunned when I read the Facebook posting: Gordon Cosby passed away on March 20 at the age of 94. Gordon was the venerable co-founder of the small but highly influential Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. Years ago, when I was living in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, someone mentioned a church that met in a bookstore/coffee shop two blocks from where I lived. I went to my first Potter’s House service (one of nine Church of the Saviour faith communities) on a Wednesday night and stayed for five years, until I got married and moved to Oregon.
I never did become a member – it was tough work – silent retreats, one hour a day of journaling, prayer, and Bible study, working for a specific mission with a small group (maybe one of the 40+ non-profits the church started), and a ten percent tithe. Word had it that there were perhaps a total of 150 or so members divided up between the faith communities. Gordon and the others were very Wesleyan in their outlook – smaller, more committed living embodiments of Jesus’ life were better than large congregations or big buildings. And, it worked. The impact of Church of the Saviour ministries that labor side by side with the poor and disenfranchised throughout D.C. is astounding. Poignantly, Gordon passed away at Christ House, one of the church’s ministries for the sick and homeless, a block away from Potter’s House.
When I told my husband that Gordon had died, he immediately took my hand so that we could pray for this mighty but humble man of God who officiated at our wedding. The tears came fast and furiously in sadness of his passing and in grateful thanksgiving for all that he had meant to me and to us.
In the twenty-plus years since I worshiped at Potter’s House, I have thought a lot about what I learned there. But there is one line of the liturgy we shared each Wednesday night that has stuck with me: “God is the owner, I am the ower.” I am not sure why that sentence has made such an impression on me. I suspect it’s because it’s a powerful counter-cultural statement and stands in opposition to just about everything I had previously learned about money and material possessions.
I wonder what the reaction would be if all our congregations stated, “God is the owner, I am the ower” every Sunday or any time there was worship. Some would squawk, no doubt. But I can’t help but think that perhaps some would begin to make that radical mind shift by reflecting on what Jesus preached – and really, truly living, just like Gordon did, as if Jesus mattered.
May heaven’s gates be opened wide for you, Gordon. Rest in peace. Rest in peace.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.