Posted by: Peaceful Social Worker | March 12, 2012

Churches

Yesterday I wrote about my thoughts on how to “do” church. I spoke of how we might  change things if we were to start from scratch. Last night I thought of all the church buildings I’ve seen and experienced. I was reading Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass, and was reading the chapter on Contemplation. Something she wrote about a particular space triggered some of those thoughts and memories……I’ll also have to re-read that chapter…..but I digress. (it happens 🙂 )

I grew up attending a church that had a building that was  built in the 50’s. It was large, and clean and fresh. It had a gym, and large kitchen that had windows into the gym, and into the Sunday School area. It was built to replace an old village church that had been built close to 100 years previously. It was built to accomodate the baby boomers and their families who moved to that area as it developed during after the Second World War. It was a busy place, and an active congregation. It had a large Sunday School, Junior and Senior choirs, men’s and women’s groups, and many other things. That building holds many memories for me.  It provided a foundation for me, and is likely one reason why I still attend church.

I have visited large cathedrals where the ceilings seem to reach the heavens. Magnificent architecture to remind us that we are mere mortals in God’s presence. I have been in small, country churches that have cracks in the walls, and leaks in the roofs. The church I was married in was modern, built in 1988. It had great theology built into the building, including lots of large windows so that the church can see out to the community and respond, and for the community to look in and hold the church accountable. Another church I attended was an 1870’s vintage former Methodist church that had spires and a pipe organ. It also had bats, who on occasion flew out, especially when we were praising “all creatures great and small”. Yes, church buildings have been an important part of my world. But have they been the most important part of my faith journey? No, the people within them have been more important.

As I mentioned in my last post, our congregation has been through a lot during the past few years. We have grown and made it through alive. Now we are entering another phase. If a couple of things had not happened about two years ago, I would have left the congregation with a heavy heart. I would have left adopted family who welcomed me into this community many years ago. I would have left a faith group that most closely reflected my beliefs, and which allowed me to continue to develop my faith. It would have been an extremely difficult decision. Thankfully that did not have to happen. During that time, I reflected on where I would go if I left that place. I considered gathering a group of people together for a home church gathering. I also seriously considered attending yoga on Sunday mornings.

Both home gatherings or small group studies, and spiritual practices like yoga appeal to me. They offer more intimate opportunities to experience spiritual growth and God’s presence. I am reminded of the passage that suggests that where two or more are gathered in His name, there is church. Diana Butler Bass suggests that people want both spirituality AND religion, and describes several churches who manage to do this. They are being creative, and enthusiastic. One blogger compares the changes coming in the church to the changes in the communication world when Bell invented the telephone: http://dmergent.org/2012/03/12/the-church-wont-die-but-our-unhealthy-attachment-to-institutions-must/ It is an excellent article, with many good ideas.

I am not sure where we are heading right now. I wonder what this new “telephone” is, and what promises it holds. It is both exciting and scary at the same time. Most new adventures are. I think we are facing opportunities for growth, even if it means a part of us dies…..but isn’t that part of Christ’s message anyway?

I’m willing to start planting seeds in the hope they will grow into something wonderful…..a garden that welcomes weeds and flowers. A garden that is colourful and diverse. Maybe a little unruly at times.

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
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