Monday, June 4, 2007

Further thoughts on yesterday's blog...

My blog yesterday was sort of long and rambling, and went "off point" more than a few times. That's partly the way my mind works and partly because I was interrupted numerous times and the TV was on. :-D

I don't have a problem with the concept of "home church." I understand the desire and even the need for a community and support network, as well as a place where people help you grow in your faith and stay accountable (although "staying accountable" is a nebulous term which I'd like to explore deeper someday). My question is, why is there this concept that the only right way to "do church" is to be anchored in one, and only one, group of believers? Maybe there is huge scriptural support for it, but I don't think there is, at least not direct support. I honestly think it is a child of the Reformation. Before that, for good or ill, you were a member of the "church universal."

I'm not saying everybody needs to go worship at multiple churches. But I am suggesting that there is something amiss with the mentality that makes not belonging solely to one church body somehow wrong or even sinful. Yes, it can be a challenge to form community at more than one church, and not everyone is going to want to even try. At the same time, it's not impossible to do. And, to be perfectly honest, attending a single church for years doesn't guarantee community. A person , or family, may make friends and enjoy attending church functions yet still not really establish that sense of community or belonging. It's happened to us more than once. It can, in fact, be very difficult at times to break into an established church community.

Our family has attended Grace for almost 7 years. Even though we know people, we've taught Sunday School, Will was a Youth Leader for 4 years, and I've been active in other ways, we struggled to feel like we have a real community there. We don't see anyone outside of church functions except one family. Sure, we could have been more involved and made a bigger effort, but with five children and homeschooling, I didn't have the energy. In the past year, our situation has changed, and interestingly enough, I've become more involved at Grace even as we've widen our circle to include Saint Thomas More. I'm doing more with the Moms at Grace and my children are getting more involved in church groups and activities.

Our community at STM is different. We'll more than likely meet people as we join in their many outreach functions or special groups (like the JustFaith group for social justice or the group that studies Catholic doctrines in depth). Our closest group of friends there at the moment are the other RCIA members and the RCIA director and his wife.

The third church we are associated with is a small group of led by a dear friend of ours. It has a "church without walls" feel to it. We are behind this group because we believe in what they are doing, which is putting legs on the gospel of Christ. Faith is doing, not just speaking, and they believe in doing. The church is going to find ways to meet the needs of the poor in their community, even if they don't know how they're going to do it yet. For example, they are dedicated, through networking with other believers and agencies, to feeding a set number of children this summer who would otherwise go hungry without the school lunches they receive during the year. Our semi-regular attendance (probably only once every month or so) is because we love the people and want to be involved in what they are doing, even if our physical involvement is limited due to time and distance.

Lastly, about regular Sunday attendance. I think there are many benefits to regular church attendance. It is a pre-set time when many people get together, therefore making it an ideal opportunity to regularly connect with those people at one place and in a relatively short period of time. That's a huge benefit in our busy lives. Also, it's a time to be exposed to the same thoughts and therefore be able to discuss and interact on those common experiences. Sort of like being on a forum together and all reading the same book or watching the same movie. But worthwhile as it is, it isn't the only way to get regular fellowship with other believers. Right now my future son-in-law works almost every Sunday, so his fellowship of believers consist of our family and the CD's of sermons he gets from his church back in Oregon sometimes. However, his limited exposure to "church" doesn't mean he isn't growing or getting fellowship. Ideally he'll work out a schedule and be able to plug in somewhere someday, but until then, he isn't an apostate or a backslider, nor is it that he doesn't care, as many assume.

I hope these thoughts help clarify my meaning. It's a fun topic to think about!

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