What are we trying to build?
A few days ago, I recorded an episode of my podcast, Non-Working Title, with Pastor Chelsea from Micah Ecumenical Ministries. The podcast is, among other things, about the challenges of living and working and doing ministry and being church in the middle of what feels like a busy if not downright exhausted season of life. People are navigating assignments with extracurriculars, parents are navigating work from home with childcare, professionals are being urged to return to the time-devouring daily commute. What's more, hours of cable TV news and phone scrolling are frying our brains and only adding another layer onto this exhaustedness that so, so many are feeling.
Chelsea and I both have funny-shaped jobs -- not only to serve existing communities but to be planting and cultivating new communities, for college students, for young adults, for our Fredericksburg neighbors experiencing homelessness. And in that space, we get to ask some really big questions about what kind of communities we want to be building together. It feels like so often in the life of the church, we aspire to build big complex organizations with packed calendars of fun and exciting and interest programs and speakers and activities. The answer to all of our questions and longings and aspirations for the church is always to do more. But what if we don't have the energy for more? What if we what we're really needing is a space to do less?
Perhaps I am speaking a uniquely Episcopal problem into a Lutheran space (if I am, I hope you'll reflect it to me!), but might isn't always right. We can feel like latent belief that church ought to be austere and beautiful and quiet, or that it ought to offer a full slate of classes and events in a variety of different subjects and for different audiences, or that our organization framework should be robust and airtight, with clear delineations of responsibilities and everyone (members included) would know what their job is. Well, allow me to assure you that our churches are free of their obligations to resemble cathedrals or universities or corporations. Community planters and existing congregations alike have the freedom -- and the encouragement -- to ask for the first time or the hundredth time: What are we trying to build here? What do we want our church to be shaped like? Do we want it to be shaped like the places and institutions and responsibilities that exhaust us, or like something else?
In our conversation, we wondered what it would be like to make church communities that are shaped like a village, or a neighborhood, or a front porch? What would a church shaped like a dining room table be like or that took place in a living room feel like? What if church felt like an art studio or a family reunion or a coffee shop back patio? What image of church resonates the most for you? What shape of church you think that people are craving? Let's wonder and then go out and build it.
If you want to listen to this episode of the podcast, visit anchor.fm/non-working-title.