Our Quest for Faithful Presence
Dear St Luke’s,
Last Sunday we began our three-part Community Forum series titled, “Conversations After Church.” I thought it was super fun to engage in that kind of conversation together.
We briefly explored the story of how Christianity as a faith came to integrate religion with economic and political power. This collusion of power with religion came to dominate the Western world. Over time that cultural dominance became known, “Christendom.” One can hear in the name, that rather than the “Kingdom of God” which Jesus proclaimed… a Kingdom where God’s will is “done on earth as it is in heaven.” Instead what what emerged was a Christian kingdom or a religious kingdom, in which the church’s will was done out of fear of condemnation.
We also listened to some of the ways that the centralized power of the Christendom church began to be challenged by the rise of Islam, science, reason, the Protestant Reformation, and the secularization of institutions. The marginalization of institutional church continues. And we noted how today’s institutional church holds much less direct influence or power over Western culture.
And then we pivoted to talking together.
It was our conversations at our tables and together as a larger group that seemed to excite our imaginations for following the Spirit into our possible future. We talked a bit about where and how we’ve seen or felt the shifting of the institutional church power, before wondering together about how the Spirit of God might be inviting us to discover new life in the midst of all this change. So good!
This week we’ll pick up our conversation with Session 2. The focus of our second session will be to explore the question of “Why?”
When the church held great power it rarely considered why it existed, rather the Christendom church had the luxury of assuming its existence and strategized toward colonizing rest of the globe. But as the power and influence of the church changes, so does its reach, its influence, its role in society, etc. Which begs the question… “What is the ‘Big Why’ of the church now!” What does church exist for?
This is a question that many of us feel as we think of St Luke’s or other faith communities that you may have been part of over the years. There is little doubt that many things around us have changed, but does the church’s ‘Big Why’ change? Should it? If so how? If not, then how do we understand its ‘Big Why?’
It’s gonna be a hoot!
The following week we’ll conclude this short series by looking at some of the emerging practices I’ve been seeing in my travels, parish tours, and research… Ways of being present, developing new competencies, experimenting with different postures, shifting metaphors of leadership and community, and the like.
Again, my intention here is not so much to provide some kind of definitive description of church life after Christendom, but to have enough of a sense of the kinds of experiments communities like St Luke’s are engaging as they discover afresh their reason for existing, to spark our imaginations.
Similar to last week, I will open our community forum with a brief presentation; walking us through a few slides. Then we’ll engage in conversation together. See you there!
Always remember my friend, you are beloved, you are not alone, and you belong.