When Duane Anders was a young man, growing up in Charlestown, W.V., people would tell him, "Someday, you're going to be a pastor."
When he was in junior high, he met with his own pastors, but didn't tell his parents just
"I thought if I changed my mind, people might be disappointed," Anders said.
It's one reason why he earned a bachelor's degree in American history but never had any intention of being a history teacher. Soon enough, Anders earned a master's in divinity, was ordained as a pastor in the United Methodist Church and spent more than 25 years behind a pulpit in Ohio. Then, four years ago, Anders was asked to be the pastor of Boise's Cathedral of the Rockies.
As the Christian world prepared to celebrate its holiest week of the year—the days framed by Palm Sunday and Easter—Boise Weekly sat down with Anders to talk about the season, his cathedral's rich musical legacy and the difficulty of loving your enemies.
When you took this appointment at Cathedral of the Rockies, how did you choose to begin influencing not only your congregation but your new community?
In my first Christmas message, we said that we needed 400 people to frame two new houses in a day, in our partnership with Habitat for Humanity. That was a bit of a shock, but I knew it would awaken us to our possibilities. It's organized chaos, a thing of beauty, 300 hammers going all at once. We've done it every year since.
These are interesting times for this community; we see unprecedented growth, yet there are too many men, women and children who are in need of food or shelter.
We need to ask ourselves: If for some horrible reasons if we closed the church's doors, what would be missing other than our worship? That's one of the reasons we hand out 100 sack lunches every week of the year.
Who are these people that you're feeding?
Chronic homeless, people passing through, students from Boise High and people who have a lot more days left in a month than they have money. We also serve a hot meal every Sunday night. It's our so-called "mercy ministry." It doesn't stop hunger; it just stops it for that moment. We then have to ask ourselves, "Why are there more hungry this year than three years ago? What's going on when we see more people sleeping under a bridge?"
Let's talk about the musical legacy at the cathedral. I've attended jazz concerts here, performances from the Boise Philharmonic...
And we were a Treefort venue.
I'm presuming that so many of those experiences transcend faith.
I just had a conversation with a man who grew up in this church but is no longer Christian. He said, "The thing I miss is singing in the choir." I said, "Why is that you think you can't sing in the choir just because you don't have a clarity about God?"
Is it OK if those dots don't connect?
My heart says they'll connect. It may take longer than I think. Cathedrals, through history, were centers of communities and homes of artists. That's a vision that this church embraced years ago: to continue to be a home for poets, musicians, painters, sculptors. During Holy Week, we have different artists' visions of the Stations of the Cross (see Page 23).
Let's talk about how a person might reconcile the secular versus the religious celebration of holy days, particularly Easter and Christmas. Millions of Americans see Easter as an opportunity to put on some nice clothes and go to brunch. And goodness knows how we overdo things when it comes to Christmas. Are you OK with that?
If underneath all of those feelings is that our holidays give us a chance to breathe and love and be present with one another, those are good things.
But what if there's no sense of God's presence?
The surprising part of God is that God seems to more OK with that than God's followers. God is present with all that is unexpected. Yes, you do keep the law by loving your neighbor, but you also keep the law by loving your enemy.
Let's talk about the reality of that. I'm finding it difficult to love a few people on this planet, more than ever.
Sure. How is it possible to love ISIS?
Yes, I'm a bit tone-deaf with the unspeakable cruelty of ISIS. Help me out with that.
When I look at ISIS, I wonder what is going on in their world where it appears that ISIS is some people's only choice. What kind of example of God have they seen? I could stand at the Idaho Capitol and pray for us to Add the Words, but I don't fear that someone is going to chop my head off. I want to believe we can love our enemy and sometimes in doing so, that means you get crucified.
Let's talk about something more pleasant, like an Easter morning sunrise at Camel's Back Park.
Amazing. Sunrise is 7 a.m. this year and, yes, we'll hold our Easter Sunrise service there again on Sunday, April 5. We gather, tell the story of Easter, sing, pray and celebrate the fact that God still surprises all of us.
I'm presuming that your Easter sunrise service draws a number of people who may not normally walk through your doors.
It's interesting that you say that. I was talking about sunrise with a homeless man the other day. Every day is a gift. It doesn't matter what the newspaper headlines say or how crappy my life is; the sun still comes up. There are days where I fear it's not coming up because of the shape that the world is in. But God is still God. And people, whether they're Christian or not, are part of something bigger. They always are.
What do you know about Jesus Christ today that you didn't know as a young man?
There was a time when I was a teenager that I needed faith to answer all of my questions. If you figured out God, God got really small. Today, just as I think I can figure out God, God gets bigger. And that's OK. The Apostle Paul said, "We see through the glass dimly on this earth." Someday we'll get the bigger picture.
I don't know. It may not be soon enough.