for the church that doesn’t exist. Once again, iMonk nailed it with his post about what he’s looking for in a church but never seems to find.
Not surprisingly, his list could pretty much be mine. So many of these qualities and identities seem conflicting, but I really don’t think they should be. While I’m happy with our current church, there’s still a part of Clay and me that longs for more. Our current church gets SO much right…much more than most churches I’ve been to, I think.
“Worship is expressive and comfortable with both charismatic and catholic manifestations of piety.Worship is formal at times, and relaxed and informal at others.”
I would love to be more open to other Christian traditions, particularly those that have a liturgical-style worship (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Episcopalian, etc…) and incorporate many of the strengths they hold. Being that I come from a Baptist tradition, we tend to ignore the idea that we could be missing something in our worship. Sermon? Check! Music? Check! Offering? Check! Hmmm, could we possibly be missing so much more? I feel a longing to participate in a worship style that’s more liturgical, meditative, and quiet…. I crave silence and space to listen to the Spirit and what He’s doing in my heart during worship, and for me, drums, an electric guitar, and constant noise don’t always facilitate that.
“The creeds are central and the confessions are appreciated, but all human statements of theology are received with a humble and critical spirit.”
I want a church that sees the creeds of our faith to be a great connector of worshippers across the world and time. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I don’t think I had ever really heard the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed until I went to seminary and was in a more ecumenical environment. I was confused, and honestly, I felt a little cheated that I had been denied this teaching all my life. These were great declarations of faith and theology that have been used by Christians for centuries, and when I read them aloud in worship alongside other believers, I felt truly connected to the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before me. I felt like the declarations of “this is what I believe” became a strong foundation of what I would and would not waver-on, following in the long tradition of earlier saints. I long to be in a church that embraces creeds and regularly recites them in corporate worship. There’s just something to be said for hearing your voice blend with that of other believers in a strong statement of what is true about God and our faith.
“The Table, not the altar, is the frequent focus of worship.”
I can’t help but wonder if my tradition has unintentionally trivialized communion. Why is it such a small part of what we do when it is the absolute central part of worship in other traditions? Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle, but that means we’re missing something. In what way is the bread and wine the Body and Blood of Christ? How do we know it’s just symbolic? My first thought is that that seems like a pretty modern, rational, scientific way to approach it. Could it be much more of a mystical reality than that? I just have a nagging feeling that it’s meant to be more than what we’re making it, and perhaps there is a sense of Christ’s Presence in the bread and wine that we make no effort to acknowledge.
“The divisions among Christians are lamented, and an ecumenical spirit is celebrated.”
One of the biggest eye-openers I had when I was at ISF was that, oh my gosh, Catholics are Christians, too! It sounds silly now, but for the first time I really learned about the history of the Church, Catholic worship and practices, and spent time in Catholic monasteries. While I can’t agree on every theological point of theirs, I was amazed at the richness of tradition and practice they have—that we completely ignore!
Growing-up, the question wondered outloud was, “Can you be a Catholic AND be a Christian?” As though the two were mutually exclusive. Evangelicalism tends to breed a distrust of the Catholic church that often leads to the assumption that they’re probably not real Christians because they’re not A, B, and C. Without getting into details of the differences of our two faith traditions, let’s just say that I long for a church that is OPEN to other traditions, seeks unity with other churches, works together in the city with other denominations, and draws from other worship practices to incorporate those things we lack in our own tradition.
“Leadership is plural and both genders are included.”
My current church does the plural leadership thing wonderfully, and it’s made such a difference from my experience with other churches. What I would love to see is more women in leadership positions. I’m currently re-thinking my opinions and positions on the issue of women in ministry, and I must say I’m starting to become more of an egalitarian. I’m reading Sarah Sumner’s Men and Women in the Church and I feel like I’m being opened to new possibilities that I had never let myself consider. I wonder if God’s intentions for me have always been greater than I would allow myself to imagine. I would love to be a part of a church that encourages women to use their gifts in every area of ministry.
iMonk’s list says it all, I really can’t think of what I would add. The things listed above are the things I’m currently feeling a lack of in my present church, however I’m a part of a community that is doing so many other things on the list RIGHT. I see bits and pieces of these characteristics in different churches and denominations, but it seems like where there is strength in one area, there is also lack in another part. It’s hard to determine the fundamentals sometimes, what do you go for and what do you compromise on? I know Clay and I will be considering qualities like this when we search for a new church in Seattle…..anyone know of one?