Jump to content

New Church


murmsk
 Share

Recommended Posts

As many of you I am a member of a Congregational Church who is trying to re-start as a progressive, inclusive Christian church. Our hope is to attract people like most of you who have become troubled by the path most traditional churches are taking.

 

My questions to those of you who don't regular attend church..... why? And is there situation where church would become worthwhile again?

 

Thanks Steve

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steven,

 

I think it's such an interesting question you're asking, you must forgive me if I answer even if I'm not your target demographic. However, I am young, and have seriously asked whether church is working for me, and what I'm looking for in it. So while I'm not disenfranchised with church, I would say I am, in various ways, dissatisfied with my church experience to date.

 

My image of the 'ideal' church boils down to one word: relevance. Church needs to be relevant, obviously, else, why go? Evangelical churches often substitute relevance for 'showy' - rock bands, flashing lights and so forth. What I mean by relevance is an authentic, unabashed dealing with the spiritual needs of the community - real questioning, no pat answers, no tired cliches, no skirting about the issues. I think the churches need to seriously serve the spiritual needs of its communities - that is its highest function. I've often been impressed with the history, tradition, and most of all the intensity of the place of worship in the orthodox churches. Unfortunately I also encounter a sort of staleness in the tradition, in that it seems arcane and distant too.

 

To list some elements I would like to see in church:

 

I would like to see...

 

...conveyed a deep sense of connection with our tradition, in the sense of historical continuity, and in the mystical, organic sense of union with the mystery of God in Christ - and that, in a sense of openness in what that means on an individual level, so that we each learn to encounter God in an intimate and authentic way.

...in addition to this, a deep sense of connection not only to our tradition, but with the faith traditions of the whole world, living into the Sacred mystery at the heart of life.

...an authentic outlet for deep existential questions and their suitable expression in ritual, liturgy, doctrine, worship, celebrations and observances.

...a center for learning and progress in spiritual matters both on an individual level and as a community. As in the orthodox church, our churches should be seen as a sacred space and a place of spiritual healing - a sort of hospital for the human condition. So while, in general, serving the community in material and social ways is necessary, people also have very deep spiritual needs that we in America are so often so shallow about.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steven,

 

I think it's such an interesting question you're asking, you must forgive me if I answer even if I'm not your target demographic. However, I am young, and have seriously asked whether church is working for me, and what I'm looking for in it. So while I'm not disenfranchised with church, I would say I am, in various ways, dissatisfied with my church experience to date.

 

My image of the 'ideal' church boils down to one word: relevance. Church needs to be relevant, obviously, else, why go? Evangelical churches often substitute relevance for 'showy' - rock bands, flashing lights and so forth. What I mean by relevance is an authentic, unabashed dealing with the spiritual needs of the community - real questioning, no pat answers, no tired cliches, no skirting about the issues. I think the churches need to seriously serve the spiritual needs of its communities - that is its highest function. I've often been impressed with the history, tradition, and most of all the intensity of the place of worship in the orthodox churches. Unfortunately I also encounter a sort of staleness in the tradition, in that it seems arcane and distant too.

 

To list some elements I would like to see in church:

 

I would like to see...

 

...conveyed a deep sense of connection with our tradition, in the sense of historical continuity, and in the mystical, organic sense of union with the mystery of God in Christ - and that, in a sense of openness in what that means on an individual level, so that we each learn to encounter God in an intimate and authentic way.

...in addition to this, a deep sense of connection not only to our tradition, but with the faith traditions of the whole world, living into the Sacred mystery at the heart of life.

...an authentic outlet for deep existential questions and their suitable expression in ritual, liturgy, doctrine, worship, celebrations and observances.

...a center for learning and progress in spiritual matters both on an individual level and as a community. As in the orthodox church, our churches should be seen as a sacred space and a place of spiritual healing - a sort of hospital for the human condition. So while, in general, serving the community in material and social ways is necessary, people also have very deep spiritual needs that we in America are so often so shallow about.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

 

Hi Mike,

 

I just finished reading your post. You seem to be yearning for the same experience that I and the small church I serve yearn for. If you have a chance to look at the topic on The Good Samaritan Community Church in the Introduce Yourself Forum, I would be interested in your comments.

 

Blessings, Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

G'Day Murmsk,

 

I am not sure if this will just muddy the waters some more but I thought I would share with you some experiences from my perspective.

 

A friend of mine and I often discuss how one's own personality can influence the type of worship they feel comfortable with. For instance I tend to be more on the introverted side, so a ritualised worship in which I can blend in with the crowd and not feel compelled to sing or clap etc can be quite appealing. Others find ritual too staid and boring and need that more outward expression of faith. Ultimately, however, I am happiest in a small group, discussing faith and books and the bible, perhaps sharing a meal in the process, this is where I feel most fulfilled.

 

So I think it is about providing a diversity of worship. Have a 'High Church' service for those who wish it, perhaps with communion. But also have a contemporary service with perhaps a live band belting out some of the brilliant contemporary Christian music that is out there. One of the biggest changes I personally would like to see is a shift away from this notion that unless you worship on Sunday you haven't worshipped. If members of your church want to meet in a small group over coffee or a meal on Wednesday nights, if this is the way their faith is strengthened, then that should be seen as just as valid as a Sunday worship in a Church.

 

I personally also love knowing that my Church is DOING our faith, rather than just talking about it. At my parish, which I have only just recently moved to from another, I love the focus on diverse charitable works and one page of their pew booklet was devoted to letting the parishioners know which charities benefit from their donations to the church. They have also just started a friendship circle for immigrants in the neighbourhood, so every Thursday morning anyone, no matter what race religion etc can meet at the Church and be supported in their journey.

 

Finally, I would love Churches to go back to having that feel of sanctuary about it. When I was growing up my Mother would always say to me, "A Church's doors are never locked!", but of course they are these days, literally and, in some sense, metaphorically. I think places of contemplation should be created in and around a Church so that people can go there during the day or night (not too late I guess) and sit and feel a part of the spiritual dance of the Church. Again, my new parish has a small rotunda with benches outside the Church proper, and people can sit there whenever they like and read, meditate or pray, no questions asked.

 

Anyway, that is what I would recommend, for what its worth.

 

Adi

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I should also ask for those who regularly attend church.

 

What do you find appealing and what made you choose your current church?

What frustrations do you have?

 

Thanks steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bob, We do things very similar in small groups. Actually we only have 2 small groups as we are a small congregation. I would love to listen how things work on your arena specifically what people find worthwhile.

 

Our small group meets every Wed for several hours. Sometimes we do book studies ... sometimes we will watch videos of interest(there are some great videos of lectures given by Borg, Crossen and Spong on youtube) ... Sometimes we talk about a current topic like immigration or medical ethics. There always is a light meal,wine and loving conversation. We have even taken a couple of field trips to workshops featuring Borg/Crossen and Spong.

 

A new group has just started to meet during the day. This group started primarily for those who don't like getting out at night. We will see how it goes. Our hope is that they will

 

We have a traditional Sunday worship with a progressive slant to the message.

 

Plans for the future are to become the progressive Christian voice in a conservative town. We have been criticized in the newspapers and radio for hosting YOGA classes in the basement (they promote eastern religion ya know). So once it becomes known the progressive direction we are headed public criticism will come. Our response may determine success or failure.

 

So I think it is about providing a diversity of worship. Have a 'High Church' service for those who wish it, perhaps with communion. But also have a contemporary service with perhaps a live band belting out some of the brilliant contemporary Christian music that is out there.

 

We seem to be headed in a different direction here. Our church has traditionally tried to be everything for everybody. The result has been that we are nothing for anybody. Our goals are to be true to our passion and if some current parishioners have to leave so be it we will love them just the same. Is this wrong?

 

I personally also love knowing that my Church is DOING our faith, rather than just talking about it.

 

This we have identified to be absolutely central... but doing it is more difficult than identifying it as a goal.

 

My image of the 'ideal' church boils down to one word: relevance. Church needs to be relevant, obviously, else, why go? Evangelical churches often substitute relevance for 'showy' - rock bands, flashing lights and so forth. What I mean by relevance is an authentic, unabashed dealing with the spiritual needs of the community - real questioning, no pat answers, no tired cliches, no skirting about the issues. I think the churches need to seriously serve the spiritual needs of its communities - that is its highest function. I've often been impressed with the history, tradition, and most of all the intensity of the place of worship in the orthodox churches. Unfortunately I also encounter a sort of staleness in the tradition, in that it seems arcane and distant too.

 

Mike, why do you find it stale? What could be done for it to lose its staleness? If a church were true to its progressive message could a traditional worship service lose its staleness?

 

thanks all for your insight.

 

steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I should also ask for those who regularly attend church.

 

What do you find appealing and what made you choose your current church?

What frustrations do you have?

 

Thanks steve

 

The questions you are asking are ones I have been asking for the past 10 years in the hope that church can become more relevant for people today. Why do I care about that? Church is the main venue for people to gather and be intentional about their relationship to God and to support one another in showing God's love to the world.

 

I currently attend a United Methodist church because of its openness to questioning and willingness to admit that we each have our personal way of seeing God, but that does not need to divide us, if we are united in God's love. In fact, the variety of thought is something that stretches me and makes me a better person.

 

A year or so ago, we were on track to have our religious service include times of worship, times of fellowship and support, and times of service to the communtiy. We have backed off of the idea of doing community service together, becuase it is difficult to find things to do on a Sunday and logistically we don't have anyone stepping up to the plate to want to organize it. It makes me feel like that piece may be more important to me than to others in my faith community, and I am frustrated. I think it is so important for churches to be serving together. Not just because it is good for the parishoners and those they help, but we have many years of negative history as churches where we need to build connections with outsiders to help them understand we are not some kind of exclusive country club.

 

My father does not go to church because he says church has done more harm than good in the world. My brother says we are just trying to make ourselves feel good by going to church and by serving the community. He feels like many Christians pray about things but never do anything. Church can be boring for people who have many meetings to attend during the week anyway.

 

I'd love to know what you end up trying and how it works!

 

Janet

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mike, why do you find it stale? What could be done for it to lose its staleness? If a church were true to its progressive message could a traditional worship service lose its staleness?

 

Hi Steve,

 

I'm currently attending a moderate-to-liberal Presbyterian church. Compared to the fundamentalist Baptist church I grew up in, it is a great place, and I appreciate its openness and inclusiveness. However, I feel it suffers somewhat from something you touched upon when you say, "Our church has traditionally tried to be everything for everybody. The result has been that we are nothing for anybody." Now I wouldn't go so far to say my church is nothing to anybody, but as a mainline protestant church it seems to lack the oomph of serious spiritual connection. Have you ever gotten the feeling in a church that most people are going simply out of habit and because it is a social outlet?

 

Now to answer your question, I've often been drawn to visiting a local orthodox church, because I've been attracted to how seriously people take religious life there, and how deeply spiritual the worship services and setting are. I'm attracted to the spiritual intensity and the feeling of presence there, the sense of continuity with history and something greater and mystical - the body of Christ. But at the same time I get this sensation of staleness - and I want to emphasize, I mean no disrespect to any orthodox Christians, as I confess it is a completely subjective impression - because the orthodox are serving an audience very different from myself. The Orthodox tend to be, well, very orthodox, and very adamant about their church being exclusively the church of God. While there is so much tradition behind it that makes for a meaningful experience, at the same time the orthodox church almost seems like a museum for arcane theologies about the Trinity and atonement, and all the stuff debated in the ancient councils and so-forth, and I'm just turned off by it.

 

I would like to see the Christian tradition renewed in a way that is very relevant for today's existential situation, not dismissing the tradition and substituting it for a social club, but making the church a place for serious spiritual practice and fellowship in an inclusive, non-dogmatic and intimate way.

 

I suppose the short answer to your question would be "yes." :D

And from the description of your church I think you are headed in the right direction.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Mike ,

 

Your desires are very close to the vision we strive for.

 

 

I would like to see...

...an authentic outlet for deep existential questions and their suitable expression in ritual, liturgy, doctrine, worship, celebrations and observances

 

Any specific ideas of how this could be done in a meaningful way?

How have others participated in these kind of discussions?

 

 

...a center for learning and progress in spiritual matters both on an individual level and as a community. As in the orthodox church, our churches should be seen as a sacred space and a place of spiritual healing - a sort of hospital for the human condition. So while, in general, serving the community in material and social ways is necessary, people also have very deep spiritual needs that we in America are so often so shallow about.

 

 

What kind of learning environments would you be excited to participate in? Outside lecturers? Meaningful discussion groups? Any other ideas?

 

 

 

steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Steve,

 

Any specific ideas of how this could be done in a meaningful way?

How have others participated in these kind of discussions?

 

What kind of learning environments would you be excited to participate in? Outside lecturers? Meaningful discussion groups? Any other ideas?

 

I personally would like to see more of what you say: lectures, discussion groups, and also meetings for worship and contemplation. What kind? I'm not sure, but collective prayers and recitations can provide a sense of a communal solidarity of living unto/into the Sacred. Discussion groups and lectures can get people involved more deeply in cultivating meaning in their lives. Participation is key. And so is honesty: if we are to be 'wholly' people, we need to authentically incorporate the existential reality of life into our worship and practice. I'm not sure I can be more specific than that, some times one has to experiment I suppose and see what works. But we have many symbols and stories at our disposal that possess a surplus of meaning: holidays, seasons, communion, incarnation, dying and rising, etc.

 

In my view the churches have really failed to serve as the spiritual centers they could have been, and have generally either retained a stale dogmatism on the one hand, or on the other hand become too superficial to do justice to the spiritual needs of people. The latter are too spiritually and theologically light and have become just a weekly ritual where people can hear an optimistic yet unchallenging, and ultimately inapplicable, message about individual and social wellness; and the activities outside of the morning service are practically none - that is, there is no other outlet provided for people to express their spiritual practice during the week or during the month. Worse, most people seem to assume that that's just the way church and religion works.

 

I would like to see an emphasis brought back to Christianity as a way of life and encompassing all of life, one that sanctifies all time and not just Sunday mornings, celebrating our collective myths and narratives, and the natural rhythms and seasons of life. The liturgical seasons used to accomplish this in some measure, but mostly they don't seem to be part of our lives anymore.

 

We are fighting against great sociological currents. In the modern, objective Western world, nothing is sacred. We've turned the world into an object and distanced ourselves from the inner experience of life. Then we despair that the sacred can't be found anywhere since we've looked under every rock and peered billions of light-years into space. Time is just time (why not work Sundays or 3rd shift?), space is just space, people are just people - objects to be used, manipulated, wrung out for profit, and ultimately, ignored. And the church has been swept along by the same philosophical waters. And ministers everywhere wonder why people, though longing for connection with the sacred and a way other than the way of this world system, are turning away from the church in favor of other paths or being spiritual-but-not-religious! If the church is to remain relevant, I feel that this trend must be reversed.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am not who you directed your question to either, however, this is why I attend my (Lutheran) chuch/what I like (other than the fact that my family attends there):

- Christian fellowship

- love the musical worship

- gives something theological for me to contemplate (dissect and decide how it fits into my current growing/awakening belief system) on a regular/consistent basis

 

What I hate about it and would wish to see:

- though I love the sermon, in relating the readings to current issues, I hate theology being shoved down your throat. An insistence of what this means. I'm constantly saying to myself, "Who says?"

- I hate the structure of the service in such doctrinal order. Too ritualistic.

- The saying of the Creeds, or Confession and Forgiveness, -- anything that is read/said aloud as a church as if we ALL believe ___________.

- Bible readings without discussion -- I think I'd lean more towards more of an open service, a give/take - but without the authoritarian overtone

- I've heard of "coffee groups" in which progressive Christians meet to talk/discuss in replacement of traditional church services.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service