It happened yesterday, Sunday, September 21. I arrived at church and what I found was my community preparing to go (together) to thePeople’s Climate March, here in New York City. I’ve often thought that if church is supposed to be the body of Christ, if church community was created to help us all do the work of changing the world, then our worship should be something we “take with us” when important things are going on.
I used to go to a really (really) big church. During Occupy Wall Street, the Occupiers put out the word that they needed more camping equipment. So my church sent an employee to the nearest REI and she bought 100 tents. Then, with 50 of them crammed into one of the Church van, they were trucked down to Zuccotti Park. The Church’s video cameras were a’buzzin as they recorded the presentation by one of our clergy, and everyone went home (except the Occupiers). Why, I asked a few days later (I have to admit it took me a couple of days to think of this) didn’t we see a pile of tents when we arrived for church on Sunday? Why didn’t the minister tell us to grab a tent or two and get on the subway and go to Zuccotti? Why didn’t we deliver the tents as a community and then spend a couple of hours with the Occupiers? Hell, we could have had our worship service at the park!
OK, the reality is that my new church is small. And small is flexible, where large is not. But why don’t we get that the structure of our churches is just not compatible with a world that is in need on a 24/7 basis. If big churches mean we can’t really involve the community, then maybe we don’t need big churches.
I’ve always figured that the early church formed communities to do the work of spreading “good news to the poor.” So you get some people together. You read some scripture, you pray, and you do the work. Along the way someone goes through a divorce, or their kid gets arrested, or they develop a drug problem. Of course, you take care of them because they’re part of your community and you love them. But the purpose of the community was not to take care of the emotional needs of the community members.
In our day and age, however, it is. Churches these days are places to feel better. It’s like a product the Church sells. Yup, it gets people in the door. And yup, it gets some coin in the basket on Sunday morning. And yup, it even attracts people who are very empathetic to go to seminary and become the professionals that are needed to staff such a care-giving institution.
I just don’t think that’s church.
There will be more on this. It’s a major focus of this podcast/blog.
But I finally actually experienced a Sunday morning where working to change the world was Worship!! And I liked it!