I so appreciated Rachel taking the time to give us some of her insight on Sunday. Her comments about the Church really stuck with me. How difficult it can be for so many of us to find a church where we feel as though we really fit. I appreciated that Rachel took some personal responsibility in that struggle as well as challenging the Church, too. It’s usually a both/and, isn’t it. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves and we also need to take a long hard look at the Church and, hopefully, be agents of reconciliation, most of all.
It’s all very complicated, though. Church can jade you like no other place in the world. Am I right? Somehow, when we walk inside we secretly hope that the very-flawed-humans all around us will somehow put their flawed-ness on hold because we’re in church. And when that doesn’t happen, it’s painful. Man, it’s really really painful.
I’ve had some interesting “church” experiences over the last few years:
When we were living back in the States, I used to host found art workshops. I’ve written about them before on the blog. Some of you attended them way back when. I would gather and scrounge and collect all kinds of bits of salvaged materials and bring them to our church offices and invite women to come. I’d read to them, pray, invite them to write, invite them to talk. And the room would fill with the sound of women’s voices—laughing, crying, laugh-crying. And then we’d make some kind of collage or sculpture—an icon—from everything inside that came tumbling out.
Sometimes during those workshops, I would look around the room and I would see all these women. All different colors. All different shapes. All different ages. All different stories. And yet, we all came together for an evening and became newly washed in grace.
I used to walk around the room and watch the women talk to each other or watch the women paint or watch them glue down and hammer and sweat and get a little life under their nails. And I used to think to myself, this is church.
I’ve been to 12-step meetings that felt like the closest thing to church I had ever experienced. People listening to other people share something deeply personal. People pointing others to their Higher Power. People loving and accepting and not needing to advise or correct. People gathered together to share about their brokenness. People encouraging each other on the road to recovery. People wanting to change. Leaves you thinking, this is church.
I’ve been to the showiest churches you can imagine, and I’ve been to the most humble (people leading worship in camouflaged uniforms). What makes a church work and what makes a church repellant?
The very hard balance is searching ourselves for pride and contempt and anger and being willing to make amends with “the Church” in general, and also being voices that call for change where change is needed. We’d like to think all this can be done gracefully. I’m sure it can, but I’m also sure it’s a mess.
So where is your relationship with the Church? What is meaningful church to you? What are some non-negotiables of church? What’s something unconventional that has become church for you?