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.


  1. Hi Heather! Church is a really big hot button issue for us (Kev & I) right now...I think that he would really like what you have here...I could be wrong...but looking at this I would think it would be his ideal as well. I, on the other hand would LOVE to find a Faith House...a place that does not have its main focus on any one religion...especially Christianity (b/c of its past dominance)...so here are my thoughts:

    you said in your last point "Honestly, they are some of my only friends. My issue is that Christianity has been & still is the dominant religion in our culture. As I say this I also know that many people are trying to "redeem" it from what it has become. In your first point you say you want "a church that finds its identity in worshiping the triune God, but maintains a respect for other religions and their beliefs and practices"

    My question is: Being a part of the dominant religion and all, how can we really need the other if we insist on worshiping the triune God while only respecting other religions, beliefs and practices? I am thinking...as those who have been a part of the domination system...that it is time to do more than respect while still having our way...by insisting on having it our way, I don't believe we will attract any of those who practice differently than we do...and your last point is my biggest concern...if we don't attract anybody but us...and we have no other real friends outside of this place...how are bridges going to get built...how are things really going to get any better?

    #justmytwocents! ;)

  2. Thanks Christi.

    I see what you are saying. Unitarian Universalism might be a place to look (see my post below). It's more about how to live out your spirituality than what your spirituality is.

    I find Christianity compelling. That is why I adhere to that faith. But there always has to be a critical lens in which you aren't practicing. In my particular, ideal faith community, worshipping the triune God would be the modus operandi--the way of doing things. I don't see that as giving into domination because there are other worshipping communities out there doing it their way. Now, if I was trying to form laws, implement traditions in schools, etc. based on this, that would be a different story.

    I think we have to take into account the history of Christianity and its formation within the empire tradition, but I also do not think we have to abandon Christianity because of it. It's acknowledging the story and rewriting the story as we move forward.

    As for my friends being in the church--it's not necessarily by choice. I don't have a lot of opportunities to meet people. I want a church to be a community, but not necessarily my only community, and ideally not my only friends. That's just how it's happened as I don't have a lot of exposure to people, in general. I, in no way, try to use that as a cloistered circle of friends. And, honestly, I am probably the most liberal "out there" among them. Not trying to be defensive, but I wanted to explain what I meant by that in case I misrepresented myself.

    You do raise some good points. I hope others will join in the discussion. Church has long been a tricky subject for me, ever since I was shaken out of my comfort zone of the church in which I was raised. I am skeptical because the definition of "the church" became blurry and I became skeptical and mistrusting of it. Plus, by studying theology, I am critical, by nature.

    Hope others chime in.

  3. I've tried and tried and tried to get Kev to check out a Unitarian Universalist church...I think he is fine w/ them doing whatever it is they do...but he does not want that to be his church experience. Somebody said something I think, that left a bad taste in his mouth...oh well.

    I think we have to take into account the history of Christianity and its formation within the empire tradition, but I also do not think we have to abandon Christianity because of it.

    This is a hard 1 for me. On my most recent blog post I talked about a pretty ugly form of Xianity...although I know enough to call it a form when talking on forums such as this...to me that is what Xianity really is...I find it hard if not impossible to differentiate Christianity from the crap I grew up around and still see on FB.

    I read a lot of really good theologians, historians, and thinkers who are acknowledging the story and rewriting the story as we move forward. but it is really hard for me to see that as Christianity

    I seem to fit more with the agnostic/skeptic/atheist group than with Christian groups...not because I don't consider myself a theist...in my heart of hearts I do...I get frustrated w/ myself when my theism looks Abrahamic.

    Have you read B. McLaren's new book "A New Kind of Xianity"? He refers to the American/Western Christian God as Theos. What I think I see or the reason why I feel I identify more w/ non christians/atheists is: when they don't believe in GD they don't believe in God/Theos...but if The Xianity that is rewriting itself keeps using old language and looking the same I fear that no one will trust it...and the bridges that we so badly desire to make will never get built...at least not in our lifetime. We only get a cultural shift every 500 years (according to Tickle & she makes a good case) I would just hate to see us waste this one by trying so hard but still missing the forest for the trees.

    It is because I identify more with them than us that I see the problems even in the good that we are doing...yet it is my refusal to see GD as God/Theos that keeps me floundering to stay apart of whatever this is.

    I'm confused...have probably gone off topic...and am not even sure I have made sense...Kevin and I have this convo a lot. Hope I am not offending...I don't mean to!!


  4. Not offending at all. You and I talked on Twitter about this, some, before.

    For me, I refuse to let that form of Christianity be the only form of Christianity. I refuse to let conservative, exclusivist, abusive people get use that term, solely. In fact, I would question as to whether they, themselves, are even "Christian." And while I don't want to be associated with them, I sure as hell am not going to let them take away beliefs which I hold and which I find compelling.

  5. I am not sure that I agree on the RCL thing (although I know it's YOUR list, not mine). From a pastoral perspective, sometimes a series is necessary.

    Plus, the RCL never goes to the terror texts. It leaves some really important texts out.

  6. @RogueReverend I get that, and that makes sense. You raise a good point.

    I just tire of a new sermon series every month or two, constantly being in a sermon series--usually with some cute/catchy title that is marketable.

    I know certain groups have created a revised lectionary, such as an LGBT one. I wonder if there is a revised one to include terror texts? If not, that might be a worthy project for an ambitious group of people!

  7. Hi Heather, just found you on twitter in the midst of this whole marie claire fiasco and I believe I found a kindred spirit :)

    This post in particular hits home for me! I am Presbyterian-ish, but am dabbling in Disciples of Christ irregularly (I too like to have communion each week) and I am sinner who believes God has bigger fish to fry than my shortcomings. We shall see, won't we? :)

    I look forward to reading more of you!
    Take care,