The name for this blog comes from the Hebrew word merchab. Merchab is a masculine noun that appears most often in the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures. It means a broad or roomy place, an expansive place, a wide place. Read more...

March 18, 2010

Church - A Response to Jaqueline #2

Dear Jaqueline,

Here is the second part of my response to your response to my post “Maybe Churches Do Work.”

You wrote:

what if we are being asked to stay with no reward other than the continuation of an institution? Are we expected to stay with an institution that has forgotten who WE are?

And it is circular; what if because of sticking with an institution we people have forgotten who we are? What if we couldn't be bothered struggling with each other because we have lost vision of WHO the Body is?

This raises the difficult question of what we are talking about when we use the word “church.” I know I get truly confused and confusing in my own use of this word.

When we use the word “church” do we mean “an institution” or do we mean “the Body”? Are they different? Can we separate “institution” and “body”?

Can there be any “Body” without “an institution”? I worry when I want to dismiss the “institution” that I am being self-serving and dishonest. The problem is that the only way I know the “Body” manifest in the world is as some form of “institution”.

You cannot know me without my body. There is no Christopher without the body that conveys the presence of “Christopher”. My body may let me down; it may cause me pain; but without my body I cease to be in meaningful communion with the physical world. Church as “institution” and church as “body,” cannot be tidily separated labeling “institution” the parts I find distasteful and “body” the parts I find to my liking.

Institutions may indeed forget “who WE are,” but does that matter? Surely, if we know who we are, it doesn’t really matter what the institution knows. We must not give institutions more power in our lives than they actually have.

Obviously there are certain parameters to this. We need to be sensible. There may be times when an institution has become so dehumanized, abusive and dangerous that any sensible human being would know that they must remove themselves from that institution. But my sense is that this is far less often the case with churches than people might like to believe. I am pretty sure lots of people leave churches before those churches have become truly dangerous to the spiritual well-being of their members.

I think people leave churches too often and too easily because they don’t like pain. And when we run from pain, we condemn ourselves to spiritual infancy; we never mature. We make it impossible for the church to become the instrument of reconciliation it is called to be (II Corinthians 5:18)

A ministry of reconciliation always involves pain. Without pain there is no need for reconciliation and no ability to be a reconciler. This is why pain is an essential part of the journey.

I think you say this beautifully when you say,

Perhaps a commitment to relationship-the pain and fruit of it- is a recognition of the fact that each of us is part of Christ? That sticking with each other is an opportunity to show our love for Christ? What if we ourselves become the personification of the Joy set before Christ?

1 comment:

David T. Brown said...

When is it the right thing to do to stop going to church. I moved to an area where my only access to an Anglican church is to one that lives 50 (or more) years in the past. I'm older and have always been active in my church. Now near the end I agonize over attending church. I decided not to. Then I decided I needed the Eucharist so I attended. I became so disillusioned that I stopped.
I'm torn between " go into a secret place and pray " and "where two or three gather in my name I am with them "
When church attnedance started to greatly decline someone said " the last person should remember to turn out the light" I responded "don't worry about it because I will still be there".
My problem is that I am basically a very pragmatic person and attending the church that I love should not be a chore. I considered staying and making a noise but then I thought what about all those old people (my age) that don't want to move into the reality of the today as I see it. I'm sure they will be hurt.
Then church might become a chore for them. Believe me Christopher this is a real dilemma in my later years that I didn't anticipate and wish I could resolve.

I'm so pleased that your blog has resumed. We are blessed.