Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Perfect Church

No church is perfect; I know that. As I tell the students in my theology class, the church is referred to as the body of Christ. The body of Christ was broken, and even when raised from the dead, the body of Christ still bore the wounds--the marks of brokenness. Yet, even knowing that the church will always be imperfect, I was dreaming up, this morning what my perfect church would look like.

Here's what I came up with:

  • A church that finds its identity in worshipping the triune God, but maintains a respect for other religions and their beliefs and practices.
  • Weekly observance of communion, the Lord's Supper, the eucharist--whatever you want to call it. The church community coming together to eat the bread and drink the wine is a profound image of what it means to be the church, together.
  • Inclusive language, for God and for humanity. That is not to say traditional trinitarian language cannot be used--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, I'd like the church to be creative in its images of God, including the vast array of images presented in the Bible. Language for humanity should always be inclusive. Women should not have to find themselves in the language of he, brothers, sons, etc.
  • An emphasis on social justice and on the material needs of people in the community and throughout the world. This would be coupled with a recognized sense of responsibility, including an awareness of the impact our lifestyle choices have on the environment.
  • Honoring the calls of all who feel led to ministry. All people should be welcomed to explore their calling into ministry, including LGBT people and women. This should not be on paper only, but should be reflected in the life and ministry of the church.
  • Preaching from the lectionary. Sermon series are kind of (okay--really!) cheesy, in my opinion. The lectionary allows broader attention to be given to scripture, and it connects Christians around the world, thereby opening the walls of the church to a larger context.
  • Traditional, spirited worship. I used to be all for praise and worship choruses and contemporary worship. However, lately, I've been calling most of these songs, "Jesus is my boyfriend" music. If you heard it on the radio, you would think some teeny-bopper was crooning for their most recent obsession. The hymns and liturgy of the church have been around for hundreds of years. Why do we think we can do it so much better? In an attempt to be relevant, why not change the arrangement of the song? Traditional worship music need not feel like a funeral, with an organ droning in the background. This is what I mean by spirited--that people are engaged and, dare I say, enjoying it.
  • A community. Ideally, the church would be multi-generational and have people who are similar in age and lifestyle to me. This makes it easier to form communal bonds. My current church is my community; my small group is not only my community, they are my friends. Honestly, they are some of my only friends. Therefore, I want a church to be a community, out of which relationships are built and friendships are formed.
This is what I came up with. I've surely missed something, and upon mention I might say, "Oh yes! That too!"

So, I ask you to dream with me. What is your idea of the perfect church? Feel free leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Name is Heather and I am Hopelessly Trinitarian

My name is Heather and I am hopelessly trinitarian. My dissertation is on the doctrine of the Trinity. Three is my "lucky" number. I like things in sets of three--candles, vases, even the scrapers used to clean my dishes. As the Schoolhouse Rock song says, "Three is a magic number."

And while I am a trinitarian--and unapologetically so--there have been many times that I have gotten so fed up with the rigidness of traditional Christian denominations that I have been "tempted" by Unitarian Universalism. What? The very name of the church suggests that it is not trinitarian but, rather, unitarian. Right. However, there is also a radical openness to difference of beliefs and difference of paths within the UU that has appealed to me. So, surely, my trinitarian beliefs would be accepted, too. Thus, the appeal.

Until today.

Before I go on, I want to issue a disclaimer that I am not denouncing Unitarian Universalism; that would be exercising the same rigidity with which I have grown tired. I have at least one dear friend who is UU and he has found a home in that church. For that, I am so happy.

Today, while perusing Craigslist ads, I came across an ad for a Religious Education Director at the local Unitarian Universalist Church. It caught my eye. So, I visited the congregation's website and tried to familiarize myself--as much as possible--with the church. I read some of their newsletters, checked out some of their links, etc. The section regarding their beliefs stated they were not creedal and, paraphrased, that no one belief was to be pushed as correct belief. Instead, mutual respect was expected as people explore the path to Truth together. Okay--sounds good (minus this idea of truth with a capital T, with which I struggle, but that's a whole different post).

As I looked around, though, there was very little (if any) mention of "the Divine." There was no mention of God--however you interpret the word. There was talk about love and light. One adult religious education course was about composting. This didn't seem to me--from the admittedly limited glimpse into the life of their congregation--that there was emphasis on the journey for truth/Truth. Composting is great; caring for the environment is vital. Yet, in what way does this fall under "religious education"? It seemed that the language was so vague as to not offend and as to not seem as if certain beliefs were being pushed onto others that I had to ask myself how, then, were people being helped in the formation of their beliefs? How were they being encouraged to journey toward truth/Truth? How were people learning to articulate their spirituality when spirituality seemed to be such a hands-off topic?

A church can say they are non-creedal, in that they don't ascribe to the traditional, historical creeds of the Christian church. They can say that they don't push beliefs onto others. Yet, when it comes down to it--all churches, religious groups, etc. do maintain a certain framework of beliefs. This church had seven principles to which they adhere. And while I agree with all seven of their principles, I have trouble believing that they would be respectful and affirming of me if I said, "You know what? I really don't think peace, liberty, and justice for all. That's my belief. You have to respect and honor it." Likewise, I think their response should be to stand up against those who are against peace, liberty, and justice for all. It just makes the whole open/accepting thing a little messier.

I would love to find a church where, collectively, we can say we believe certain things without judgment or exclusion of those who don't. I want to be open and accepting of people from all faiths and non-faiths, but I also want to be able to live out my faith without fear that I am offending others, while those others are able to live out their faith without fear of offending me or anyone else.

My name is Heather and I'm hopelessly Trinitarian.