Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. – Romans 12:11
I was talking to a friend the other day who was feeling disenchanted with the church. “Why do we even do church?” he asked. “What good is it?”
I talked about serving God through worship, about how celebrating our relationship with God as a community is one of our most primal expressions as human beings. It dates to the time when we first emerged into self-consciousness as a species, I said. We recognized then, as we have ever since, that we are most whole when we are in communication with the Divine. We’ve been fine-tuning how this looks and what it means ever since, I added.
But, as it turned out, this commentary fell far wide of his chief concern. It turns out that what really has him turning away from the church is that he does not like our new worship space. And he’s just one of three or four people who have said this to me recently.
We are worshiping with two other congregations in a large church. When we participate in joint services we fill the space with sound and color, and it’s a very uplifting experience. But when our congregation worships there alone we’re a small group in a huge, echoing space. My friend wants to do church in a more meaningful way. He wants to be out in the community. He wants to feed hungry people, or maybe wash their clothes for them, after we all worship together.
What astonishes me is that my friend was distancing from our community rather than discussing his vision with the rest of us. He just assumed that no one would be interested in what he longs for. When I told him that another parishioner envisions doing church out of a bread truck parked downtown and that a third one wants to explore doing church at our local not-for-profit restaurant, he was incredulous.
I want to say to all of you who read the Episcopal Café, and especially to you young visionaries out there, that the Episcopal Church is yours to do with what you want. The fact that more congregations have not taken up the lively, life-giving ministries that we are beginning to hear about around the country is that many of us older folk don’t envision them. It doesn’t help when those among us who do yearn for that kind of church keep silent and drift away. If you share your longings, it will spark our own. It really will. God shows us what God wants from us through the passionate desires of all our members. But will that be enough to tip the scales and get us out of time-honored ruts? Before you walk out on us, at least give it a good, zealous try!
Image: Food Truck Ministry by Molly Carr