« Pope Benedict XVI | Main

On The Church

by Ivy Beckwith

While Emergent is about many things – what it’s about is probably as diverse as the people who identify with us – one of those many things we are about is the church. Many of us are about figuring out what the church of the 21st century ought to be.

Right now I have an ambiguous relationship with the church. Since leaving my church position at the end of 2004 I have not affiliated with another community. I identify with the community that is Solomon’s Porch; I’ve attended my parents’ Presbyterian church in Florida; visited a church in Brooklyn where a friend is the pastor (will be there this coming Sunday); and celebrated the start of a new church in the area on Easter Sunday. But on most Sundays when I’m home in Minneapolis church for me has been coffee and the New York Times. And there has not been much I have missed about the church experience until recently. First, I found myself missing the Eucharist. Celebrating and participating in the Eucharist came to be one of my most meaningful ministry experiences in my last church. Repeating the words of the liturgy and feeding the congregational flock were experiences that kept me in the vicinity of God when I was ready to walk away forever. I came to understand the centrality of this rite to the church in a way I’d never seen in my liturgy free past. I sorely miss that experience.

And I’m starting to miss the community. I’m starting to miss seeing people on Sunday morning or evening and am starting to feel a little isolated because of it. Missing these 2 elements of church life will ultimately drive me back to more regular church attendance in good time.

But I must admit that every time I think about finding a new church home I’m stopped dead in my tracks by the question of “what church could I possibly go to?” I don’t ask this question because of a lack of churches where I live. I live in, perhaps, one of the most churched areas of the world. It’s a question of finding a church which resonates with my sensibilities of what the church should be all about (sensibilities that are more felt than delineated in a logical list) and where I am not asked to join in or reveal too much of myself too quickly. When I go back to church I want to be left alone for a while. Not many churches understand this.

I’ll go back to church eventually. The very fact that I’m entertaining thoughts of going back is progress. And I’ll continue to ruminate on (as will the Emergent leadership team in upcoming conversations) what do I think about church and what it’s meant to be in our times.

Posted on April 21, 2005 at 04:18 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/2286209

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference On The Church:

Comments

"While Emergent is about many things – what it’s about is probably as diverse as the people who identify with us – one of those many things we are about is the church. Many of us are about figuring out what the church of the 21st century ought to be."

Spot on Ivy! That's what made me feel like connecting with the conversation all the way from here in Malaysia!

Anyway, if you feel like coming for a Holiday you're most welcome ... we're working on the ideas you've shared in your book! It's hard work!

Posted by: Sivin | April 21, 2005 04:46 AM

"But I must admit that every time I think about finding a new church home I’m stopped dead in my tracks by the question of “what church could I possibly go to?” It’s a question of finding a church which resonates with my sensibilities of what the church should be all about (sensibilities that are more felt than delineated in a logical list)..."

Ivy, since resigning from my position, i have experienced the same reasoning and emotions.
Blessings to you

Posted by: Kyle | April 21, 2005 07:12 AM

For many it seems critical to go through this kind of "missing" process. I suppose it's a sort of experiential deconstruction. Take your time. It seems you have the kind of relationships that you can trust to keep an eye on the process.

Posted by: bill | April 21, 2005 10:37 AM

For many I think it is/has been extremely helpful to go through a "missing" phase. I suppose this a sort of experiential deconstruction. Take your time. It would seem you are in the kind of relationships in which your friends won't let you fall off the edge of the world.

Posted by: bill | April 21, 2005 10:40 AM

"But I must admit that every time I think about finding a new church home I’m stopped dead in my tracks by the question of “what church could I possibly go to?”"

Ivy,
I too, can very much relate to your remarks. My wife and I have recently spent quite a bit of time visiting other churches with the desire to go to a church in our local community rather than drive a ways away.

However, during this process, I have discovered that many of my opinions about worship styles, music, preaching,etc, are simply snobbish aesthetic sentiments that completely miss the point of church.

It is true community that I desire, regardless of whether it is high church, low church, organ with hymns, or contemporary worship music. That stuff really doesn't matter.

I'm not so sure that a church should "resonate with my sensibilities" to be a good or the right church for me.

Peace,
Dignan

Posted by: Dignan | April 21, 2005 05:21 PM

Hi Ivy,

In your search for a home church do consider another kind of "home church" - aka: a house church. Just meet as the church with any number of others in any place at any time. Sounds to easy, no?

Christians are to be welcome wherever other Christians are - period. Technically, there is nothing to join because being joined to Christ makes you a member of his church.

May the Lord direct your steps during this wilderness period.

Zane in Tennessee

Posted by: Zane Anderson | April 23, 2005 12:53 AM

I'm not sure how it is possible to obey the NT commands to submit to the elders of the Church if you just hang out with other Christians, but are not under the accountability of those who are in authority? Do ec people believe in the authority structures of the Bible, or do they see those as cultural and tend to be egalitarian?

Posted by: tooaugust | April 23, 2005 01:59 AM

The question raised by tooaugust is one I've raised before. But I don't think this posting is about the "simple church" model. Bill Bean has a great post and discussion that was had a week or two ago. Broad in perspective and I think a better place to discuss simple church. Also a better place b/c I do know Bill and his group is living that church out, hammering out hard stuff, and I can say struggling well with what it means to be a church in this model.

http://bill.beanbooks.com/2005/04/10
http://bill.beanbooks.com/2005/04/13

Posted by: matt brunton | April 23, 2005 08:00 AM

As a 28-year member of Jesus People USA, I have to say this principle -- that folks attending our church services for the first or second time often want to be left alone -- is one deserving close scrutiny. It is often very, very true! What makes it hard, though, is that it is not always true. Some folks are offended if one doesn't extend an immediate hand of friendship / fellowship. I've always wished we could hand out a two-sided sign for new folks to hang around their necks. Side "A": "Hi. I'm analytical. Leave me alone and let me analyze." And Side "B": "Hi. I'm lonely. Don't leave me that way!" But of course having only two sides is a bit modernist.... hehehehehhe...

Posted by: Jon | April 23, 2005 12:27 PM

How does coffee and the NY Times consitute church?

Posted by: Roger N Overton | April 23, 2005 07:00 PM

ivy! i am so glad that jesus allows us to be just where we are! jesus loves us in our seasons... and i believe a season without "church commitments" is really a gift..as you may recall, i resigned from my paid church position at the end of 04 too. i have returned to worship there several times, but folks still want me to play my old role...i don't just get to worship!

for those of you who haven't worked in sunday morning churches, it gets "old" after awhile...and too often those of us in youth and children's ministry very rarely have a sunday that isn't work...we may even have to/and need to go to other churches to really worship!

it is sooo nice to get to have a sunday "off"...not to have to get up and be somewhere! i am enjoying sleeping in on some sundays, and having the opportunity to go to many different churches and seeing what the holy spirit is up to around town...
too often in church land, both paid and unpaid folks never step outside their flavor...they never take the opportunity to see what jesus is up to across town or around the corner!
and yes, being an emergent type, i do know that church is not the building and that "church" happens on other days and other times besides sunday morning!

sadly though, we don't allow folks to take a "church vacation"....

i know that right now in my life, i want to allow god the space and time to pour into my life...to turn up the soil...to plant new things...but
because i have been pouring out for so many years...i may just need to have
the ground of my life lie fallow..

enjoy your church vacation...allow god to restore your soul, through coffee, the newspaper, a walk in the park, a visit to a friend's church, a visit to the beach....
the trinity is always present wherever you are and you bring "church" with you wherever you go!
blessings friend!
lilly

Posted by: lillylewin | April 25, 2005 06:39 AM

ivy! i am so glad that jesus allows us to be just where we are! jesus loves us in our seasons... and i believe a season without "church commitments" is really a gift..as you may recall, i resigned from my paid church position at the end of 04 too. i have returned to worship there several times, but folks still want me to play my old role...i don't just get to worship!

for those of you who haven't worked in sunday morning churches, it gets "old" after awhile...and too often those of us in youth and children's ministry very rarely have a sunday that isn't work...we may even have to/and need to go to other churches to really worship!

it is sooo nice to get to have a sunday "off"...not to have to get up and be somewhere! i am enjoying sleeping in on some sundays, and having the opportunity to go to many different churches and seeing what the holy spirit is up to around town...
too often in church land, both paid and unpaid folks never step outside their flavor...they never take the opportunity to see what jesus is up to across town or around the corner!
and yes, being an emergent type, i do know that church is not the building and that "church" happens on other days and other times besides sunday morning!

sadly though, we don't allow folks to take a "church vacation"....

i know that right now in my life, i want to allow god the space and time to pour into my life...to turn up the soil...to plant new things...but
because i have been pouring out for so many years...i may just need to have
the ground of my life lie fallow..

enjoy your church vacation...allow god to restore your soul, through coffee, the newspaper, a walk in the park, a visit to a friend's church, a visit to the beach....
the trinity is always present wherever you are and you bring "church" with you wherever you go!
blessings friend!
lilly

Posted by: lillylewin | April 25, 2005 06:40 AM

Why does this all sound a little too "me"-focussed? I thought in emergent you want to get away from individual selfishness and do things out of love for the other. Are our commitments based on our personal feelings of "what we get out of it," or is it on going to love those who are there? I think if the latter, you will subsequently "get something out of it as well," so maybe the problem is not location, but mindset, no? How can separation from the body gathered to worship God through His Word in the assembly be a "gift from God?" I thought the Lord had declared not to abandon the assembly as some have done?

Posted by: tooaugust | April 25, 2005 11:10 AM

tooaugust - I am finding your comments increasingly on the lines of a "tantrum" or reactive to something that is not always in the posts or line of thinking you are commenting on.

Most people who are posting here are trying to be "real" or authentic. Part of doing that is allowing each other to be known. One thing that many in EC have done well is utilizing the internet to help get to know each other. There is a relational aspect to that. EC has a tendency to believe the internet can be a tool used to get to know each other and enhance discipling not just in ideas, but also personally. Every other posting on this particular post has a name, website, or blog by which we can better understand each other. Yet you post anonymously and sometimes with alot of animosity.

An anonymous posting, particularly of the animosity type you have been posting, become increasingly ignored because you are giving us no context to know you or who you are.

To your post - you focus on the selfish aspect of this discussion b/c you have a preconcieved notion that everybody posting as an EC has a "thinking" that is "heretical" (not biblical) and therefore selfishly. You don't see that some (if not all) have a real desire to know the real living God (Jesus/Yahwheh- I didn't want you to pull out "well which God are you referring to"). Church fathers throughout the ages have found and experienced God's grace in places other than just church alone - in relationships, in studying Scripture alone, in nature, and even in the unwitting loving acts of "non-believers." I know you know this.

You could have said something like, "I am glad to see people really want to find God, though I question some motives for not going to church. It seems we need to sometimes consider we go to church to serve others there as well. Sometimes by our acts of service, sometimes by just being faithful and obedient to go and expect God to show up. Our focus might need to be slightly changed."

And if that is what you mean, I like your comment :-)

Give us your name. Post a blog with thoughts. Let us begin to know you. Also, begin to read and know about us as more than just these "ideas" and "theological reflections." By doing that you do take a risk of people disagreeing not with your ideas but also in who you are being and they will wholeheartedly disagree and even with animosity. But by knowing "who" you are we might begin to grow some in discipling each other. (This last paragraph, I believe is some minute "essence" of the spirit of EC community - and nobody is claiming it's without flaws)

Posted by: matt b | April 25, 2005 01:39 PM

How can one " figure out what the church of the 21st century ought to be" by not being a part of it? How can someone make a difference or help make changes in the weak areas of the church by staying at home?

When you say you have an "ambiguous relationship with the church," what do you mean by "the church?" Are you speaking of a specific place of worship or the body of Christ as a whole? All believers comprise "the church." How does leaving altogether benefit either the church or you?

Posted by: j | April 25, 2005 06:48 PM

Post a comment