The Beach for Misfit Toys

The Prenti / Prentisses / Prentiss' just got back from a week in SoCal. We hiked in Joshua Tree, we Disney-ed (just one day thankfully!), and then headed to Venice Beach where the air is warm, the sun is bright, and the people are weird.

Venice is actually one of my favorite places in the world and one of the few places outside of Portland that I would gladly call home. Despite recent gentrification, similar to what we're seeing here in Portland, there's still a healthy dose of strangeness.

Alongside L.A. scenesters and tech-bros "slumming it" in a $4000/month loft, you'll encounter aging meatheads lifting weights barefoot at "Muscle Beach", women wearing roller skates with 70's-style tube socks, skateboarders with lots of scars but few jobs between them, and the formerly-transient who have found something like home among others who've decided that if you're gonna be sleeping outside it might as well be at the beach!

I wouldn't want to live anywhere that doesn't have a place for people like this. People like me. Anywhere that being strange is something to be fixed.

The Prentiss family has been "Keeping Portland Weird" for ten years now, and though it's changed a lot in that time it's still a place where weird people move to knowing that Portland has a place for them. Even if you aren't strange in a stereotypical way if you're part of Intown, part of a church – you're weird!

Being a Christian in Portland is weird. Yet, here in this famously-liberal city I've never experienced contempt or rejection. Quite the opposite, when people find out I'm a pastor they are invariably curious and engaging; it's like they've discovered a unicorn!

Strange people move to places like Portland because it's safe. I don't mean safe in terms of crime statistics but in terms of community. In large urban centers you can always find your people; even if you were something of a freak in your hometown Portland will "take you in." In fact, what IS weird in Portland is exclusion, it's rejecting people because they don't fit mainstream society's idea of "normal."

Cities like Portland, places like Venice Beach, are life-giving places because they don't demand conformity but instead have a "come as you are" attitude. The beautiful thing about this for a church in these kinds of places is that we get to add to the welcome. We get to be a new family for people who may have been rejected by theirs and a place for a city of misfits to meet the one at the center of our community who himself was a religious misfit.

Lots of our neighbors moved here to leave behind communities of rejection and we get the truly holy privilege of stewarding their stories in the presence of God.