If seeing the Roman Collar inspires a reaction in you, I'd like to encourage you to put aside your initial response and read on. Josh introduced me to Jim by referring to him as "a terrific human who is constantly pushing on boundaries about what it means to be in community." I went into my meeting with Jim with an open mind and an open heart and left feeling handsomely rewarded. I mention this only because I spent a significant portion of my life involved in religion and have been deeply scarred by it. Many years ago, I decided to live my life away from the church, but I believe it is very important to allow others space for it. I try very hard to withhold my judgments around all things religious, but I'll admit that I often fail at that. So, I don't want to tell you what to do, but if you have any judgments of your own on this issue, please put them on hold and hear what Jim has to say. I know I was deeply moved and inspired by our conversation. And I'll even go so far as to say that I felt some healing take place in my heart as we talked.
Before I started recording, Jim mentioned that he struggled to wear his collar during the peak of the sexual abuse within the Catholic church scandal because he felt unfairly judged. This opened the door to a conversation about all the judgments we make based on appearances and differences and how we would all be better served for not making them. I learned some lessons today. I hope that is evident here and I hope that Jim's participation and my making this public will help eliminate some judgmental tendencies for you, too.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
Father Jim Radloff. I am a pastor at Holy Communion Church, which is celebrating four years in existence here in Bend, Oregon.
What matters to you? What motivates you?
Every morning I get up and I say the same prayer; May everything I do begin with your inspiration, continue with your help, and reach perfection under your guidance. Amen. And so what motivates me every day is just my faith. And what my faith is is in a lord that just calls us to love God, neighbor, and self. And so, my work is very much just helping people to love.
What do you think we mean to each other, individual to individual?
My perspective on life always comes from being an extreme extrovert and so I'm energized by people. I don't operate well in a vacuum. So whenever I'm in the presence of another person, I gain so much from being in that presence of another person. And I love the variety of the people that I come in contact with every day. Because it just excites me. I always learn something or I come by with something. I did an emergency anointing on Friday afternoon. And here's a man in a life-threatening situation and so I'm going in thinking to myself, Well, I'm going to help him in his time of need. And, yet, I walked out of the hospital room gaining so much from the encounter because I lived by this mistaken philosophy that if I just find peace, then I will be better able to deal with everything else that's in my life. And he's just like, No, you've just got to find peace in the midst of living your life. And I like that instead of thinking I need the peace first... it's in the midst of life. So, I walked out of there with such a better attitude that day. Of somebody who was basically told that they almost died and still the future was unknown.
What does community mean to you?
Community, to me, is really celebrating a vast diversity of gifts. I don't believe everybody has all the gifts or everything that they need. I believe we were created as social beings, needing each other. I had a couple of friends who decided to go move off the grid. So they bought this old farm and they were going to be totally self-supporting, which was successful until she got pregnant with her first child. Then it was amazing how much they recognized they needed other people. And then when he needed supplies - amazing, he didn't make his own nails. I don't know what the problem was. It was just fun when they came and visited me recently in Bend. We had to go for sushi because they found living off the grid just didn't provide good sushi. We just laughed and we had a good time. It's nice to be self-supporting and independent, but there are such advantages to community. And, with me, being the extrovert that I am, I am so energized by others that those times when I'm feeling inadequate or I'm feeling down or I'm feeling that I'm just not able to make it on my own, I love that there's somebody around; somebody in the community that'll somehow just help build me back up again. So, I just think we're created as social beings; as that we need community. It's part of the main purpose of this church here, is giving people a place they can come to and get supported, encouraged, and helped. As Pope Francis put it, he said, Churches need to be seen as a field hospital to the wounded. And I prefer that than a bunch of like-minded people getting together and all professing the same belief in some cold doctrine. No, do we have a safe haven? A place where people can find joy or peace or a hug when they need it? And so, it's just creating community within the community, but then changing us in that encounter so that we go out and have that same effect in everybody we meet in the community. That if I leave here in a better mood, that's certainly going to contribute to a better response in the crazy traffic here in Bend, Oregon, than if I left here in a bad mood. 'Cause I'd respond differently to the constant long trains that go across Reed Market Rd. So, for me, community is just people sharing their diverse gifts, talents for the build up and the benefit of everybody else.
Is there something that concerns you?
What's concerning me now is just how divisive people are tending to be in their differences. Instead of respecting that we're all different and there's no way there's going to be a uniformity of thought and beliefs ever and instead of just acknowledging and celebrating those differences, it's just frustrating how people make it personal. It's like, I don't like who you voted for for President, so I'm not gonna like you. Because there must be something wrong with you that you would vote that way. And it becomes a personal attack. And so, what breaks down the community is when there becomes this divisiveness. And it's even worse when there's this need that everybody needs to believe like I do and be in my camp or be a member of my church. I'm the only right church in town. So everybody else must be the wrong church. Instead of saying, No, the reason there are so many flavors of ice cream is because not everybody likes vanilla. There's so many different ways to celebrate life and celebrate faith and celebrate each other. And why do we have to say it's right or wrong or black and white or you or me and us against them? No, I don't like that divisiveness. I like a great discussion if we can keep it to the topic, but I want to continue to love the person. Even if I may be totally in disagreement with what they hold, I still like the dignity of the person. I have to uphold their dignity no matter what they stand for or where they're at. I don't want to make it personal. I'd much rather love them as a person and then I think we can have a better discussion. Than to just turn them off or turn them away. Well, that's certainly not going to move us forward together. So, I just don't like the divisiveness that seems to be out there.
What's your role in the fight against social injustice?
My role in the fight against injustice can be seen as my role as a pastor of a small church in Bend, Oregon. And you just look at the fruit of what I work to promote. So, in the injustice of an inequality of access to good food, I'm a very big encouragement to the people of Holy Communion Church to support The Giving Plate. And so, this past Saturday, we had a large number of volunteers over there. It's one thing to talk about the hungry, but other people can do the talking about and the theory and the minimum wage and everything else; I'm looking at the hungry and how can I help them have access to food? And especially, Giving Plate has the Kid's Korner. The children - I don't know what led to the situations that the family with which they're growing in right now. All I know is they're hungry; let's give them food. So when it comes to The Giving Plate... my whole thing with social injustice is, I can let other people theorize and have their great gatherings, protests, or whatever; everything that I promote here is just really hands-on.
We feed the hungry with Giving Plate. We help provide the Pregnancy Resource Center... we're doing a baby bottle fundraiser right now and we just promoted an event at the Christian Life Center. It's just how can we help women who find themselves pregnant for whatever reason - I'm not gonna judge their age or how they do it - but how can we help them if they're gonna need prenatal vitamins, if they're gonna need regular ultrasounds? Again, it's the hands-on.
When it came to the whole immigrant issue, people were like, Well, what are you gonna do as a church? We have illegal immigrants who belong to our church. And so I went to them and I said, How can I help you? Instead of taking a big political stand on what's right and what's wrong. How can I help you? And they're like, Well, we want to become legal. I said, Great! Let's figure out what to do. And so each of our immigrants now have a sponsor and we're helping them get through the whole legal system, including paying all the fees, to make 'em legal. They're carrying letters right now that if they're ever stopped, they can say, Hey, we're going through the process; we want to become legal. So, it's a hands-on.
For three years in a row we've been the number one fund raisers for the Relay for Life. Cancer has touched too many people. And it's tragic. At the same time, let's do something about it. And I like walking around a track. 24 hours we have people walking around the track and we really promote the ceremony. We have luminary bags of loved ones who have died from cancer or loved ones who are struggling with cancer. It's just a real hands-on reminder. So when it comes to all these, I've never been the Let's theorize about this. I'm just like, Well, others can be gifted in doing that; what can I do to just do hands-on? How can I help people on an individual basis?
We opened up the church before Christmas; it was a jingle event. We gave funny money to children so they can come in and buy Christmas gifts for their siblings and stuff. We have a storage unit and it's through The Giving Plate. Again, how can we help them when it comes to Christmas and stuff? So with this whole social justice issues, my main thing is encouraging the people here and it's seen in our church bulletin - our outreach ministry - we'll do the hands-on and others can worry about immigration or the hungry or housing or teen pregnancy or whatever; we're gonna just... if they're pregnant, we'll help 'em.
Do you have a sense of purpose as an individual?
The sense of purpose as an individual is something I preached on just a few weeks ago because I've bumped into too many people that don't seem to know what their purpose is. And so it's kinda funny because my purpose is to help people to find their purpose; that everybody has been created for a unique purpose. And too often, it's discouraging. I've had to do two funerals for suicides. Why? What led to them no longer feeling that they wanted to go on? I don't know. It could have been a whole number of things, but I look at the consequences evaluating their own lives and helping everybody to see No, everybody has a purpose. So, my purpose is really helping people to find that they do matter; they do have a purpose. It's kinda fun - in some ways I'm almost in career planning. The people come to me and what they're doing with their life is not fulfilling. And, yeah, you gotta put food on the table, especially if you have a family. Well, how can we find something that's more fulfilling? Or be fulfilled in the midst of still doing what you need to earn the money on the side? So it's just... my purpose is to help people to find their purpose. Because I do believe I have an important role and purpose in this community. And I can see it; in four years we have over 400 active members and a place of our own. And what I love, they're active members; they're excited, they're joyful, they're on fire, and they seem to be affecting others so that we have more and more people coming and finding a purpose.
What do you want more of in your life?
Boy, that's a really good question 'cause I can't think of anything off hand. I already have so much. I guess what I want more of in my life is for more to have a life like mine, where I'm surrounded by people who I know love me; I have people that I can love; I have something that I really get excited about waking up in the morning to do. I guess you could say that in a way it's a ministerial workaholic because it's hard to separate working hours from relaxation hours because it's just what I'm doing. So, what do I want more of? I guess I just want more life. As a two-time cancer survivor - and my brother died of cancer at 37 and my father died of cancer at 54 and my mother's struggling with a return of cancer - I guess I want more life out of my life. But it's really guided my perspective that I don't know when my life's gonna end, so I'm living my life as full as I can every moment. It's frustrating for some of my friends; they're a little frustrated when they're like, Can we go out for a drink? And I'm like, Umm, I have an opening in two weeks. And they're like, What?! Yeah, I love living life and I keep it very full. I'm up at 4am in the morning and I'll be going out and having a good time with some friends tonight. So, what do I want more of? Just life!
Do you have anything else you want to put out there?
I like what you are doing with this whole project. It'll be interesting to go and spend some time reading what others have had to say about community because we've got a lot of good things going for us in the community of Bend. It doesn't mean there aren't areas in need of improvement and I think this could really contribute to that. Just looking at the diversity of who you already have, it'll be interesting to see if there's a common thread that is shared by all of humanity and see what other people's goals, hopes, dreams, expectations, purpose is. So, I'm just honored to be invited to be part of this and looking forward to see where it goes in the future.