Holding church services in secular spaces

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Andrew Sullivan surveys some of the recent writings about holding church services in unusual settings.

He quotes Walter Russell Mead who wrote:

As millennials mature in their personal faith and their theological and cultural reflections, we should expect this generation to come forward with new ways of stating and living the Christian message. There will be conflict and wrangling; “New Lights” and “Old Lights” will struggle over doctrine and practice as they have done since Jonathan Edwards’ critics attacked the Great Awakening. But if history is any guide, the new generation will find and express an authentic and compelling interpretation of the ancient faith, and American politics and culture will be shaped in large measure by the answers the millennials find.

And Rod Dreher who said:

I think these nouveau Protestant guys are onto something with their ideas of church coffee shops and other community-center activities. In medieval times, the church was not only the place for liturgy, but was also a community center of sorts. In Chartres, for example, the great cathedral was in those days a community gathering place; merchants even sold goods inside the church when liturgies weren’t going on. That may have been pushing it too far, but as a general matter, I think it’s not a bad thing at all when a community makes the church a center of its common life, and not just during worship.

What do you make of this movement and the fact that the punditocracy is starting to wake up to it?

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barbara snyder
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barbara snyder

Not only religious people feel this way, BTW.

I have a good friend - a completely nonobservant Jewish woman - who tells me she loves sitting in religious buildings - churches, too - just for the sense of serenity she feels sitting there....

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tgflux
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tgflux

Just want to say how much I empathize w/ Harriet Baber's perspective.

I suspect this may significantly be an Introvert v Extrovert thing. I'm all for being w/ other people . . . in peace marches---to the barricades! (have just seen Les Mis ;-/). And I love the mass w/ a packed house.

But for truly spiritually-feeding my emotional core, give me an empty catholic and/or byzantine sanctuary, dripping w/ candles, filled w/ icons, illuminated by stained glass. A coffee house is just for my caffeine/wi-fi fix.

JC Fisher

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Harriet Baber
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I didn't say church should be nothing but the woo-woo/mystical/aesthetic but that it should be at least that. I didn't say it would draw everyone it, but just that it would draw some in--and that the absence of this stuff would drive some away.

I've been to fancy music shrines where they do the aesthetics to the hilt. And, guess what: they're packed, and packed with diverse congregations. Try it. Put on a fancy show and advertise. Have fancy dress processions in the street every week. And don't excommunicate me because this is what matters to me about church. Yeah, I'll try to be a good person--we pay for the aesthetics with ethics. But if I don't get the aesthetic/mystical kickback why should I bother?

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barbara snyder
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barbara snyder

What's really interesting to me is that even the tiniest minority - for instance, Harriet's minority - can be accommodated, since it really doesn't matter why people are sitting there, enjoying and using the services; what matters is that they are sitting there. What matters is that the church is helping them in some way - and that's its primary purpose, as far as I can tell. Notice that Harriet is saying the church provides something to her that nothing else in the world does; that's remarkable! To me, that's some really valuable - and encouraging - information.

The church - the faith - can indeed speak to all sorts and conditions of people. It has things to offer to everybody - and everybody has a place in it. That's the real beauty of the thing, to me. It might be true - I wouldn't be at all surprised - that it's the ardent believers that keep the thing going. It might be true that without its ardent believers, there would be no church at all; I do have that suspicion, myself. Fortunately, ardent believers will do it all anyway, and won't let anything stop them. Fortunately, their faith can sweep up the whole world in its embrace and be glad of it.

So I say, let people use the church - the faith - to fix whatever it is they need to have fixed. There's just nothing else in the world that even tries to do this - let alone accomplishing it....

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David Allen
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David Allen

Harriet Baber, I am not sure where you got your idea of "church," but it has no connection to the folks in the first two or three centuries of Christianity, nor does what you describe have any relation to the ministry of Jesus. And those two things alone should be a giant red flag that what you are speaking of isn't church.

Bro David

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