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Contemporary Progressive Churches?


tpirob
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I've read similar posts on this, and being new to this site, would like to discuss this topic to see what the general feel is on this subject.

 

I personally do not like the threats of hellfire, nor do I want my little girls exposed to that sort of preaching. I do however love the contemporary services so often associated with the fundamentalist non-denominational churches.

 

I attended a UCC church yesterday, but was dissapointed to see a lack of young people, and a "boring" traditionalist service that seemed almost like a funeral. With respect to all churches....I realize the purpose is to praise God. But that is not what is happening.....I don't see any praising going on...only passive participation.

 

I am almost left without a choice but to go to a non-denominational church and praise God in my own way, and in the process try to tune out the fire and brimstone preaching!

 

Has anyone ever given thought to starting a church that would embrace our progressive Christianity, but with a contemporary flair that seems to be attracting the youth to fundamentalist churches in huge numbers?? Or do those churches already exist, and I'm just not finding them??

 

I don't know where to turn anymore. I am hungry for God.....and want to worship God with others, but am not having luck in this area! Please help!

 

Thanks!

 

Rob

Conway, NH

tpirob@yahoo.com

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Try "emerging" churches... I go to one that is EPC - Evangelical Presbyterian. Sounds scary, but it's not :P The motto of the denomination is: "In essentials unity, in non-essentials, liberty, in all things, charity. Truth and love." The essentials involve basic christianity... pretty exclusivistic. No fire and brimstone - generally hell is viewed as separation from God. The non-essentials involve social issues, things people see differently over time that often split churches. The worship is contemporary, the music is awesome, the message is god-centered, socially active, and solid grace - to members and, more importantly, to be taken to the world by members. Individual presbyteries and churches have a lot of leeway in this denomination, so they may vary quite a bit.

 

You might check Brian McLaren's website (sorry, not sure of the address - google!) - they may have lists of churches in various areas.

 

Godspeed and welcome to the site!

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What I'd really like to see are Progressive House Churches! That said, there are a number of liberal churches experimenting with the Cell Church or Small Group Ministry concept.

 

People are starving, I believe, for intimate communities of faith. Unfortunately the conservative Christians have had almost a monopoloy on this concept for about 30 years.

 

The Unitarian Universalist church I've recently become affiliated with is beginning a program to develop "Affinity Groups". I am very hopeful that it will catch on, but I have my doubts.

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It looks like you live in a pretty small town. That will limit your choices quite a bit. I pretty much like the UCC church I go to, but a. I am prob. one of those "old people" you saw. :-)

b. Well UCCs are pretty different. Some are actually conservative. I had a hard time believing this, but it is true. Mosly they tend to be small, so they will have more traditional services. c. IMO, there is traditional dull and traditional not dull. It depends.

I've definitely been to traditional dull. I think they talk about this as the "frozen chosen". :-)

 

It's true emergent churches tend to be more moderate, but then he (she?) is talking

about going to a fundie church.

 

 

I think you should shop around. Is there a Unitarian church? (some are not Christian but usually there will be Christiand discussions going). How about United Methodist. Sometimes they are more moderate, but they can be quite liberal. *Some* UMCs have contemporary services. Another church that sometimes has comtemporary services is Prebyterian USA. (There are several flavors of Presbys and some are very conservative and some are more progressive. If there is more than one UCC church you can try going to a different one, I went to one in Chicago with lots of young members. Look at weekly papers and see who is reaching out and what they are saying.

 

--des

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Try "emerging" churches... I go to one that is EPC - Evangelical Presbyterian.  Sounds scary, but it's not  :P  The motto of the denomination is: "In essentials unity, in non-essentials, liberty, in all things, charity.  Truth and love."  The essentials involve basic christianity... pretty exclusivistic.  No fire and brimstone - generally hell is viewed as separation from God.  The non-essentials involve social issues, things people see differently over time that often split churches.  The worship is contemporary, the music is awesome, the message is god-centered, socially active, and solid grace - to members and, more importantly, to be taken to the world by members.  Individual presbyteries and churches have a lot of leeway in this denomination, so they may vary quite a bit.

 

You might check Brian McLaren's website (sorry, not sure of the address - google!) - they may have lists of churches in various areas.

 

Godspeed and welcome to the site!

 

Thanks, Cynthia. I checked out Brian's site (thanks for the tip!), but didn't find a link to area churches. I checked out his church.....sounds PERFECT for me, except it's in Maryland, and I'm not!

 

Peace,

 

-Rob

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In my experience, "emerging" churches tend to be more moderate than truly progressive.  That said, there are some progressive churches across the U.S.

 

Hi Brother Rog!

 

I thank you for your input! I noticed while reading various posts that you are a UM minister! I was married in a UMC, and my daughter was baptized there. That was back in MA before I moved north about a year and a half ago.

 

I really liked our pastor....his name is Dogba Bass and he pastors St. Paul's United Methodist Church in New Bedford, MA. What powerful sermons he delivers!

What I don't like about the church is that the mostly elderly congregation resists any change....so change has been VERY slow going. He had attempted a contemporary service, but only a handful of us were there, and it wasn't at all what I expected. I wasn't as involved in the church as I would like to be now, but it's too late to help with that ministry now that I am in NH!

 

Anyway, I haven't looked into the UMC here yet. It doesn't seem to be a very active church (I NEVER see anything going on there!!), and it is very small. As a minister, do you know anything about or anyone from our local UMC churches, Bro Rog? I live in Conway, NH.

 

I am more comfortable with lots of people around me in worship....especially people that we can relate to. I love the non-denominational contemporary worship services, but as "beachofeden" once posted, it's usually the coating they put on their "fire and brimstone" messages which I do not agree with.

 

Eventually I will find my way. Someone out there please say a prayer for me....I need all the help I can get!

 

Peace,

 

-Rob

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On my knees.

 

It's all about the journey. You'll never find a church you agree with 100%... unless, perhaps (???) you're the Sr. Pastor - and I think that has it's own set of difficulties! Remember, it's not about finding the perfect church, it's about finding a thin spot (where you feel God), a place/group/mission you feel good about being part of; a community for your kids to belong to and feel supported/restricted (in a positive peer pressure way) by. A place for joy and respite.

 

Good luck!

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What I'd really like to see are Progressive House Churches! 

People are starving, I believe, for intimate communities of faith. 

 

 

This is where I am headed as well. Regretfully, I have not participated in a church in 20 years, and like trirob I miss community and fellowship and the sharing of ritual and practice with other seekers. But my inclination is toward small groups willing to experiment open mindedly with what it means to be Christian and with vital ritual and communal practices which nourish our hunger for God. I am shy about entering an established church with established doctrine and "frozen" practices...although I am open to the possibility of finding a church where things are less rigidly defined and more open to exploration.

 

lily

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What I'd really like to see are Progressive House Churches!  That said, there are a number of liberal churches experimenting with the Cell Church or Small Group Ministry concept.

I think this would be a great idea, but I almost despair about finding enough local people to do it. I guess they're out there, but how do you find them?

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On my knees.

 

It's all about the journey.  You'll never find a church you agree with 100%... unless, perhaps (???) you're the Sr. Pastor - and I think that has it's own set of difficulties!  Remember, it's not about finding the perfect church, it's about finding a thin spot (where you feel God), a place/group/mission you feel good about being part of; a community for your kids to belong to and feel supported/restricted (in a positive peer pressure way) by. A place for joy and respite.

 

Good luck!

 

Thanks, Cynthia!

 

Very good words of wisdom, and I really do appreciate them!

 

Peace,

 

-Rob

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What I'd really like to see are Progressive House Churches! 

People are starving, I believe, for intimate communities of faith. 

 

 

This is where I am headed as well. Regretfully, I have not participated in a church in 20 years, and like trirob I miss community and fellowship and the sharing of ritual and practice with other seekers. But my inclination is toward small groups willing to experiment open mindedly with what it means to be Christian and with vital ritual and communal practices which nourish our hunger for God. I am shy about entering an established church with established doctrine and "frozen" practices...although I am open to the possibility of finding a church where things are less rigidly defined and more open to exploration.

 

lily

 

Beautiful name, Lily! That's my youngest daughter's name, too!

 

Anyway, thanks for the reply! I think I agree with FredP's post on this thread that finding that niche group of people may be the challenge!

 

I've often thought: why don't we place inexpensive local classified ads with the web address for the TCPC and include our e-mail address as a local contact? Chances are good that we'd get some kind of positive feedback/response from people interested in our viewpoints! Then there's residual word of mouth "advertising" that would stem from that. I think this would be a great way to start Progressive House Churches, no? Imagine if you were to get 100 emails from people interested in starting a House Church....wooohooo! Can I get an AMEN to that!?!

 

But seriously....I think one of the downsides of this website and/or forum is that it's not advertised enough. We should probably be doing our own ministry work reaching out to those who, like us, don't believe Christianity is THE ONLY way. Whether it's on the 'net, or in inexpensive newspaper classified ads, it would be a good idea to promote this website and thus increase the probablility of creating a "congregation" in our own backyard!

 

The TCPC could do their part by perhaps selling items on their website, like bumper stickers advertising the TCPC. I think that it would be reasonable to say that for each one of us that would slap on a TCPC bumper sticker, there would be (at least) one person out there who would join this group. I dunno....just thoughts. But from what I've read on here, I am absolutely certain that this group could grow exponentially. There are just so many people out there that don't go to church or worship God because of the way they are being preached to.

 

Now...for fear of sounding too preachy myself, I will shut my trap!

 

Peace,

 

-Rob

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*******WWW.TCPC.COM*******

The Center For Progressive Christianity

 

 

Simple bumper sticker. Concise. Effective.

 

How's this:

 

FIRE is for BBQ's!

www.TCPC.com

 

It would take a while, but they'd get it! I like Aletheia's better, though!

 

Other ideas? This could get interesting! :D

 

Peace,

 

-Rob

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I began a House Church in Wyoming in my days as a fundamentalist but it grew to about 50 people, we moved into a building, and then came to the push to become an institution. In the meantime, my theology was rapidly being transformed and I would have been trapped in an institution.

 

I'm wondering if now things might go differently. This is one reason I've joined a Unitarian Universalists fellowship which wants to develop "Small Group Ministry". I've got tons of books on how to do House Church and I've got a lot of experience so... I am thinking I might be useful. I like the idea of being associated with a larger community.

 

There's nothing too difficult about starting a House Church really. That's one of the things that really neat about it. You don't have to get permission, you don't have to set up a Steering Committee... none of that nonsense. You don't even need to call it a "church" - and in some ways it is preferable not to.

 

Invite a few friends and neighbors over for a discussion about some topic - or simply present the idea that you'd like to form a group with others interested in community (use some language that will appeal to their need) and get it going.

 

As community bonds are formed, rituals can be adopted or will simply appear. There are certain things which should be avoided and certain things should be done to help the community grow and survive, but there's a lot of material available to help in the "birthing" process if one looks for it.

 

The obstacle to doing this kind of thing, in my opinion, is that people have a formed concept of what a "church" is. Unfortunately, many don't think it is "church" unless there is a clergy person around to bore everyone with a monolog. I've told members of my affinity group that what we are doing when we get together is really what church is all about. The formal meeting with a sermon and all that stuff is just "accidental" to church.

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Amen to your ideas and comments! :D Progressive Churches are in such a NEED where I live here in Ventura! The closest we have is '1' United Methodist church on Santa Clara Street. I went there on Easter and here's the thing. The contemporary praise music they had was pretty darn good!...But the Pastor is NOT good at speaking. Sorry..but it's true. That night I turned on the tv on our local channel and they was the very same serive on tv with the very same pastor giving the very same sermon. My mom, who is devote JW was watching this with me and she replied, "That pastor is not a very good speaker." And this is coming from a person who has to sit through VERY boring and very UNcontemporary services at the JW Kingdom hall! There was only like 30 people at this small contemporary service in the small chapel..and here's what I think.....United Methodist and Prebyterian are enough alike, when they are Progressive....that they should join together to do contemporary Progressive services..especially if they is not enough Progressive churches.

 

Yes, contemporary Progressive Christian churches need to be advertised more! And this TCPC network needs to be advertised more! I say advertise an ad in the LA Times!

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Well we had a book discussion group at our UCC church (talking about Spong's book on resurrection) and we got quite off the subject, and got into practices. It seems a lot of us really wanted more meaningful (perhaps contemporary and perhaps harkening back) and apparently even in this pretty progressive church this has been very controversial. I'm imagining older people in the congregation are resistant. The other thing is that archiecture does kind of place the pastor up over the congregation. Of course I mentioned that there was nothing holding us back from taking out the first three rows of pews. I mean this is not a big church. Someone said that they took one row out for hearing impaired access, and *that* was controversial. Yikes.

 

I mentioned how in my other church everyone went up in the front around the table to do communion, and someone mentioned that they had once done it by having everyone stand around the pews along the outside, and that was controversial.

 

I mentioned how a lot of the hymns dont' really deal with our more progressive sensibilities to which someone replied they wish we had hymns written after 1890. We do, but they sure aren't the majority -- I'm actually thinking 1930. We did that more in my old church but then some of them were not singable either. I really really did not like that!!

 

It seems like from this that the only way that you can do something more contemporary is to have a large enough congregation to be able to do a second service or maybe to go off and do a small faith oriented group of some kind. But it is ironic that the very fact that we don't have enough people to do a contemporary service is prob. partly responsible for not attracting more younger people. You can't very well turn your back on people who have been active for years and years, BUT you can stay active for years and years longer unless you attract more people. I see this a major catch 22. It is also a fact that many elderly members aren't really all that progressive even in a pretty progressive church. For example, I bet some of them have no idea we have a gay pastor. Might leave if they knew. He isn't exactly totally quiet about it either, but doesn't deliver "gay services" whatever those would be. :-)

 

BTW, I am not so interested in the typical version of a contemporary service as getting out of ruts that do the same old thing as it was done for x no. of years without thinking about it.

I like some of the old hymns, but I think some of them do not represent more modern beliefs. I don't like the top down communion but actually going around a table is LESS modern. So I think we need to think about things and why. Not just say we'll sing "praise music" as it is popular and modern. At my old church we had a music director who wrote some hymns that were wonderful, but not based on any set musical type. One almost got to be our "theme" which was interesting.

 

 

--des

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Well we had a book discussion group at our UCC church (talking about Spong's book on resurrection) and we got quite off the subject, and got into practices. It seems a  lot of us really wanted more meaningful (perhaps contemporary and perhaps harkening back) and apparently even in this pretty progressive church this has been very controversial. I'm imagining older people in the congregation are resistant. The other thing is that archiecture does kind of place the pastor up over the congregation. Of course I mentioned that there was nothing holding us back from taking out the first three rows of pews. I mean this is not a big church. Someone said that they took one row out for hearing impaired access, and *that* was controversial. Yikes.

 

I mentioned how in my other church everyone went up in the front around the table to do communion, and someone mentioned that they had once done it by having everyone stand around the pews along the outside, and that was controversial.

 

I mentioned how a lot of the hymns dont' really deal with our more progressive sensibilities to which someone replied they wish we had hymns written after 1890. We do, but they sure aren't the majority -- I'm actually thinking 1930. We did that more in my old church but then some of them were not singable either. I really really did not like that!!

 

It seems like from this that the only way that you can do something more contemporary is to have a large enough congregation to be able to do a second service or maybe to go off and do a small faith oriented group of some kind. But it is ironic that the very fact that we don't have enough people to do a contemporary service is prob. partly responsible for not attracting more younger people. You can't very well turn your back on people who have been active for years and years, BUT you can stay active for years and years longer unless you attract more people.  I see this a major catch 22.  It is also a fact that many elderly members aren't really all that progressive even in a pretty progressive church. For example, I bet some of them have no idea we have a gay pastor. Might leave if they knew. He isn't exactly totally quiet about it either, but doesn't deliver "gay services" whatever those would be. :-)

 

BTW, I am not so interested in the typical version of a contemporary service as getting out of ruts that do the same old thing as it was done for x  no. of years without thinking about it. 

I like some of the old hymns, but I think some of them do not represent more modern beliefs. I don't like the top down communion but actually going around a table is LESS modern. So I think we need to think about things and why. Not just say we'll sing "praise music" as it is popular and modern. At my old church we had a music director who wrote some hymns that were wonderful, but not based on any set musical type. One almost got to be our "theme" which was interesting.

 

 

--des

 

I can relate to what des is saying. A lot of the older people in a congregation just don't want to see any change take place. We attended a UMC back in MA, and it was mostly older people. And since they are the majority, they usually get their way. I've actually heard of people threatening to leave if the pastor did this or that. I was told of this one woman who threatened to leave if a black pastor came to the church. Well...the pastor came, and the woman left. Hard to believe this still happens, but it does.

 

When it comes to contemporary services, older people just don't want that type of religious experience. It's not what their used to, and they don't want any part of it. Just like they can't stand listening to today's music....it's a generational thing!

 

I can understand it to a point, and maybe that's where churches need to consider doing a second service so that everyone is happy. The problem is finding enough people to attend in order to make it worth while, which I'm sure is where most of the challenge lies.

 

In my search for churches, I have found the most of the pastors are receptive to me. I have one pastor that I'm probably meeting with tomorrow. I told him all of my concerns (love God, hate the "hellfire" preaching, wish for more contemporary services!), and he told me that those issues were "near to his heart" and he wanted to talk with me about it!

 

Sometimes it's just finding the right pastor to connect with. Maybe one of US will be the impetus that a church needs to make a change in their congregation.

I suggest composing an email clearly stating your beliefs, likes, dislikes, etc., and that you are longing to find a church home where you will be accepted and embraced. Send it out to individual pastors and see what you get for a response.

Send one or two of these messages to some fundamental churches too, just for fun! :blink: Just kidding! My point is, we will never know until we ASK. There may be a church out there that needs our visions and ideas to kick things off for them. You'd be creating a "home" for yourself, and doing God's work in the process...potentially reaching out to others who may feel as you do right now.

 

Peace,

 

-Rob

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Well we did talk amongst ourselves about starting our own communion meal. We would just get together and do it, invite everyone who wants to come.

 

It is a very interesting group and not all the older people *are* conservative. In fact, funny thing but many are the most liberal in the group. But I do imagine there is some core of elderly people that do call shots. I'm sure they would not decide if we called a black minister (obviously didn't as we have a gay one), but as I said nto sure they exactly "advertised this".

 

Funny but I think some of the conservative forces are from the pastor. He comes from an old Lutheran tradition. They kicked him out for being gay but I guess you can kick the guy out of the Lutherans more easily than you can kick the Lutheran out of the guy. :-)

He gives excellent relevant sermons, but the rest of the service has small elements of modern influences (young people's time, for instance) but hangs on to ancient irrelevant hymns, old prayer patterns, and worship patterns that are familar. And some people are pretty happy to hang onto them with him. Since this is a "congregational" church, it has to be that the people basically go along with it.

 

--des

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So basically what the problem is...is that...what we have each experinced is that we have visted the most moderate churches in our areas..which are Methodists or Preberterian or United church of Christ...

 

We found that the over welming vast number, if not all, the people in these churches are of elderly age. They are Progressive in the fact that they don;t like the brimstone hellfire and "Left behind" Holy roller hype of the Fundamental Protestant churches...and they accept women's rights pretty well...the acceptance of gays is unbeknowst to them...

 

But..when it comes to becoming culturally relavent to the younger generation, say Baby-Boomers, the X and Y Generations and X...they suddenly switch gears on us..and are NOT Progressive to THIS change. They CAN SEE and KNOW that the FACT that they have resisted change or at the very least have dragged their feet slowly to it..to the point..that all the 50's and younger crowd have LEFT THEm and turned to the far more fundamental yet contemporary churches instead. They KNOW and acknowelde this FACT and WHY they have no young..and that it is because of their resistance to change....But they apperantly don't care..Or not enough...to reach out to the youth culture.

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Back in the 50's and 60's the younger Evangelical Protestant pastors saw a changing culture and they could see as plain as day that the old Evangelicals were not a bit interested in changing their old dry services and organ music hymns for folk rock style music for the arising youth counter culture movement of the time. So these young spitied Evangelical pastors broke off of the old time Evangelical denominations and started their own.

 

Well, maybe it's time that us Progressive Christians do the same. If they old Progressives don;t want to work with us to reach the contemporary culture with the Progressive Christian message..then maybe it's time we break off and start own non-denominational Progressive Christian churches independent from UMC,ect.

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Well, maybe it's time that us Progressive Christians do the same. If they old Progressives don;t want to work with us to reach the contemporary culture with the Progressive Christian message..then maybe it's time we break off and start own non-denominational Progressive Christian churches independent from UMC,ect.

 

That's exactly what I was getting at when I started this thread! I think starting a new non-denominational progressive christian church would be quite the undertaking....but certainly not impossible.

 

-Rob

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>We found that the over welming vast number, if not all, the people in these churches are of elderly age. They are Progressive in the fact that they don;t like the brimstone hellfire and "Left behind" Holy roller hype of the Fundamental Protestant churches...and they accept women's rights pretty well...the acceptance of gays is unbeknowst to them...

 

Well social justice as well. Some of these folks have been active (maybe in the past) in whatever church social action stuff has been going on. A lot of them are moderates more than progressives though. I think if you teased out exactly what they believe, they would say that the Bible is inspired and not necessarily all literally so, but the basic things that are said to have happened happened. As long as gays don't bother them they aren't bothered by gays (or anyone else). It is a very strongly live let live sort of position for the most part.

 

 

I wouldn't say they are the majority of members where I am, but let's just say this. When it comes to church support I would guess they are the ones paying the bills, stopping the leaked plumbing, tuck pointing the bricks, keeping the roof from leaking or falling in, etc.

So *financial* support is very strongly from that group. But I actually think the average age is more like 50-60 and not really elderly (meaning we do have younger than 40s as newer members even). But perhaps in an urban and university area (we are not in a residential neighborhood though), we do fare a bit better.

 

 

>But..when it comes to becoming culturally relavent to the younger generation, say Baby-Boomers, the X and Y Generations and X...they suddenly switch gears on us..and are NOT Progressive to THIS change.

 

No because I see them as live and let livers, they aren't switching gears. They are acting in their own interests which is to have things comfortable as they are in their old age. (Elderly are not so good at changing positions on anything.)

 

>They CAN SEE and KNOW that the FACT that they have resisted change or at the very least have dragged their feet slowly to it..to the point..that all the 50's and younger crowd have LEFT THEm and turned to the far more fundamental yet contemporary churches instead.

 

I'm not sure they really recognize it. It is an excellent point to attempting to deal with the problem though.

 

>They KNOW and acknowelde this FACT and WHY they have no young..and that it is because of their resistance to change....But they apperantly don't care..Or not enough...to reach out to the youth culture.

 

They may have young people who have gone on in their own lives, the church is more of a family in many of the ways that matter. I think they react protectively. But I think they are by and large not aware of their effect on the membership as a whole.

 

I think ironically one of the things that helps conservative churches reach out is that they are often not very democratic. They have authority of a pastor and various helpers (reminds me of a strange bumper sticker-- read "We love our pastors". Can't imagine a UCCers with such a bumper sticker, regardless of our affection.) But anyway they basically run things, they decide on things and make lots of decisions. But some guy can come in and say from now on in things will be my way and the congregation basically agrees to it or leaves. In a round about way this enables more change on a form level.

 

OTOH, in a more liberal church, decisions are made at the congregational level (Congregational with a capital C or no). So if changes are made they are slower in coming. My last church decided EVERYTHIGN as a consensus! You can imagine how much hell that was (description of hell, eternal congregational council??). Decisions are brought to the whole congregation to vote.

 

 

--des

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Well, maybe it's time that us Progressive Christians do the same. If they old Progressives don;t want to work with us to reach the contemporary culture with the Progressive Christian message..then maybe it's time we break off and start own non-denominational Progressive Christian churches independent from UMC,ect.

 

I'm responding to this in a different post. I think there have been some liberal/progressive things like this but they are generally pretty small. When I was (possibly) your age, I was involved in a discussion/worship group with 8-15 other women. I think we had advertised in a local "free" paper to get our group together, one offering free community space. We mostly had discussion but sometimes involved ourselves in different ways of praying/meditation, such as meditation walks in the park. It was kind of a cool thing. It wasn't hard to do but it was hard to continue. I think there are also possiblities for group worship and study within Progressive churches (such as our book discussion group which might actually morph to something else). Take a look at this link which was the guide for our own group:

http://pacc-ucc.org/sarahscircle.htm

Funny thing our next discussion is on the sacred feminine as well!

 

 

A true church with pastor, buiding, etc takes $$$$.

I'm not saying it can't be done but....

 

 

--des

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