What if the Church IS the Building?

by Anna Olson on April 15, 2014

How many times have you been told -- or told someone else, maybe with a slight tone of spiritual superiority -- that the church is not the building?

I know, I know, it’s the people. I do know.

But it is the building.

Your neighbors see a building. They may have even been inside. Often for something other than worship. Often somewhere other than the sanctuary.

The built environment matters. It shapes what we see, where we walk, where we drive, the very textures beneath our feet. Buildings shut out noise, let in light. Doors are open. Or closed.

As church membership declines in many places, sometimes it seems the buildings are all that will be left.

So what if we take these buildings seriously?

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Buildings and Grounds, Change

Holy Week Remixed

by Jeremiah Sierra on April 14, 2014

For my entire life I have waved palm branches on Palm Sunday, washed other people’s feet on Maundy Thursday, attended services at noon on Good Friday, and spent Saturday night at the Easter Vigil. These liturgies are familiar to me and an important part of my religious observation.

Now, however, I attend St. Lydia’s, a small an experimental community, where we do things slightly differently. A typical Holy Week service might involve stringed instruments or drums, a meal, no prayer books or bulletins, and occasionally liturgical dancing. It’s both familiar and foreign, giving Holy Week a new shape and occasionally presenting new insights. It’s Holy Week remixed. 

In a sense, during Holy Week, we're simply doing what we do every Sunday: taking the familiar stories, the truth we have, and putting it together in new ways, like a poet arranging old words in new ways or a church choir singing a familiar lyric to a new melody.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Prayer & Reflection, Worship

Soccer-field Best

by Richelle Thompson on April 14, 2014

They came in their baseball jersey and pants, cap tucked into the belt. They came with soccer shorts underneath the choir robes, and they processed with hair primly pulled into a bun for an afternoon recital. One wore riding boots for an afternoon session at the horse barn; another schemed for a play date. 

But they came.

These children with lives as busy and overscheduled as their parents came to church on Palm Sunday. They sang with the choir, played handbells, collected the offertory as acolytes. They shook hands with the adults around them at the peace and knelt at the altar, receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. And if some had to slip out before the recessional hymn to catch the start of the game, so be it. Their priority was clear: they were here. Worship was an important part of the day. 

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Permalink  |  1 Comment Change, Youth & Young Adults

What is a Church?

by Anna Olson on April 11, 2014

Fifty years ago -- even twenty -- that might have seemed a bizarre question. But these days, many things are up for grabs. How regular is regular worship? What constitutes preparation adequate for church leadership? Instruction of young? With walls or without? Creed? No creed? New creed?

I heard a story on the radio yesterday that referenced the IRS fourteen-point test for determining what is a church. Episcopalians may be questioned for many reasons, but it’s rare that someone challenges our church-hood. So I had never examined the definition.

Our Sunday school situation is a little shaky, but otherwise my current congregation seems to measure up for now. Unfortunately, it’s not at all clear that meeting the criteria on this list prepares us very well to feed the spiritual hunger around us, to respond to the needs and anxieties of a new generation, to be a place of reconciliation among new communities.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Administration, Vision & Planning

Punching Holes in Bushel Baskets

by Richelle Thompson on April 10, 2014

What’s hiding under your basket?


When I was a child, I messed up the words to the ever-enduring song, “This Little Light of Mine.” (A confession: I’m a serial offender as a lyric slaughterer. I thought for years that The Bangles were singing "just another man named Monday" -- instead of "Manic Monday." But I digress). My flub for this children’s song came with the hiding. I was certain that the song’s words encouraged us to stop hiding our light under a bush (oh, no!). It made a lot more sense when I learned that it was a bush-el (basket). 

Of course, knowing the words and living them are two different things. Despite the admonition in the Gospel of Matthew, I hide my light all the time. I suspect our churches do too. 

This morning, I had a wonderful experience of what can happen when we remove the basket. I wrote a meditation for Forward Day by Day that appeared in yesterday’s edition. In it, I explained the staff of Forward Movement gathers each day and reads the daily reflections. But more importantly we pray together. I mentioned that many of these prayer requests come from an online prayer chapel that we host.

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Permalink  |  0 Comments Change, Evangelism, Prayer & Reflection

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