Saturday, June 12, 2004

the emerging wife

Will, my husband, has been reading and thinking alot about The Emerging Church. I like what he's saying. I like the stuff he's giving me to read. I like being married to a guy who doesn't watch sports but watches 'the church.' I can sure tell you that I'm ready for a severe shift in "church as we know it."

You know, I know we're all human and that people are always going to disagree on things. I'm not naive because, well, I came to faith and have been involved in churchianity since I was three years old. But I'm tired of all the programs and the things we all feel guilted into not only going to, but offering. I feel sorry for pastors who "get with the program" because it's always been done that way.

I'd like to go to Beach Bum Baptist Church. Or Deck Disciples. Or Parishioners of the Porch. Why shouldn't meeting together in small groups count as church? Who proclaimed that small gatherings without a specific program didn't qualify as "assembling yourselves together"?

Just thinking through things out loud here. What would your perfect gathering look like? Mine would definitely include coffee and a surface to write on.

Would love to know what you all are looking for too.




Blogger Jaime H. said...

I, too, came to the faith when I was three years old. At that time, my church was meeting in the basement of my parents' house, and the Sunday School classroom in which I was introduced to Jesus was my bedroom. Later, in my pre-teen years, my church split, and we began meeting in the living room of one of our deacons. I loved that. But, I've always loved small, intimate churches.

My perfect gathering would still be small, meeting in a small church with a simple sanctuary. It would consist of people who haven't forgotten what it means to reverence God's sanctuary. There would be no cookie crumbs ground into the carpet and discarded paper cups under the seats. Care of the sanctuary would not be relegated to some no-name cleaning company. The people would care for it, and would do so out of love, not obligation....just as they would care for each other. We would wear our "Sunday best." We would use hymnbooks instead of powerpoint presentations or overhead projectors. Our voices would be accompanied by soft piano music and the front of the sanctuary would look like a sanctuary and not the after-effects of a rock concert. We would actually bring our Bibles to church and use them. We would gather together specifically for prayer on a regular basis.

What can I say? I'm a traditionalist when it comes to worship. The blood of the New England Puritans flows through my veins, literally and spiritually. I grew up in my idea of a perfect gathering, and, unfortunately, find nothing but the exact opposite of it now, wherever I go, in all aspects. I want to go back. I don't know if I will ever be able to, but it doesn't stop the longing.

June 12, 2004 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Jules Quincy Stephens said...

My perfect church isn't so much a setting as an attitude. There would be an outpouring of Christly love, not because He commands it, but because Brothers and Sisters are truly right with God and the love is there.

When quarrels arise -- and they always will -- there would be an orderly fashion of dealing with it and moving on, not holding grudges or going out of ones way to make sure someone knows they're being ignored.

There would be praise from uplifted hearts and crying from broken ones, without shame in lifting hands or bowing heads.

When the sermon was over, people would sit in their seats and reflect for a few minutes because something the pastor said reached their souls. They would not jump up from their seats as if they just sat through a biology class -- unaffected.

To sum it up: My church would embrace freedom.

June 12, 2004 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Deborah said...

Here in Ottawa, I think I have seen a perfect church for Lisa and a perfect church for Jaime.

Last week, I attended the "worship palette" of Ecclesiax held in a wing of an old formerly Free Methodist church in an artsy old neighborhood called the Glebe. The room has been converted into a gallery and art and photographs adorn the walls. Off to the side are a couple of easels. You walk in and can sit in one of the conversation clusters of furniture. On the floor, in the shape of a cross, are artist's sketch pads. When everyone arrives---about 20-30 people with some with small children in tow, most dressed casually, the sketch pads are handed out. These are the community journals and while the Bible readings and sermon (the very hip young pastor takes his scripture notes off a PDA) people sketch, write poetry, doodle. A small group of musicians will play songs by U-2 or Tragically Hip. They attract the kind of people who say, "I don't believe in God. But, I think He's talking to me." Art, imagination, mystery are honored and respected and cultivated here. But the teaching is Gospel based and the pastor is under the authority of the Free Methodist Bishop. Maybe Jules would love this place too. They stress that here you are free to be yourself. Communion is real wine in glasses or grape juice for the kids or abstainers, and a big loaf of bread broken and passed around by the children.

The other place is the one that Jaime would love. It is my little tiny Anglican Catholic cathedral. Even I am on a cleaning team and three times a year, I scrub the floors or run the Hoover on the old red carpets and scrub the toilets. (I say "even I" because this is not my area of giftedness, ahem, and if anyone who has that gift comes around I dodge them in case the gift is imparted to me). For the most part, people do not talk in the santuary. There is a deep sense of reverence. We have kneelers that fold down from the pew ahead and we spend a lot of the service kneeling, including when we go forward to receive Communion---consecrated hosts and wine from a common chalice.
We use incense and sometimes the air is blue with it. We sing the liturgy on Sundays and use the old Book of Common Prayer. Nothing gets dumbed down for kids. We have a bishop who, when he does the Mass, is so prayerful that you feel as if he is interceding for you. If he reads from one of Paul's letters, the letter comes alive as if Paul himself is standing there. Our bishop is originally from Zimbabwe and was bishop there when Christians were being killed--men, women and children, simply because they were Christian. The procession, the way the men all wear fresh robes which all signify something, the way they all genuflect in unison and take their places up front is like a liturgical ballet. The symbolism of every movement is rich with history and significance. The dean of the Cathedral has a beautiful tenor voice, so when he leads the ancient liturgy---which is similar to what is done in Orthodox Churches or in the old Latin Mass of the Roman CAtholic Church, only in beautiful Shakespearian English--the sound is beautiful. Then he sings harmony when the rest of the congregation sings hymns. And they are old hymns. Chosen for their theology, not for their seeker friendliness. Out of hymn books.

The priests believe what they are singing or saying. When they're in the pulpit they teach what the Church has always taught, and do not freelance with their personal opinions.

The halt, the lame, the old, the young, the well-dressed and the casually dressed are all welcome. At the end of the service, after the priests and deacons and servers have filed out to a hymn, everyone kneels in perfect silence until someone comes and extinguishes the candles on the altar.

It is my little bit of heaven. I'm afraid I might swoon and roll off the chair onto the floor sometimes the Holy Spirit is so powerful in this place. Yet, the congregation is tiny. Some of the old ladies are cranky and difficult. As I say, it is an eccentric place. We're Traditional Anglicans, and not part of the nonsense affecting the Anglican Church of Canada or the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.

June 13, 2004 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Jaime H. said...


That just sounds *wonderful*!! I'm glad to know that such places exist, even if I can't find them myself. My heart just aches with longing reading about it!

And I agree with Jules. Perfection in the body of Christ is a heart matter, not a setting matter. In my life, however, I have found that the more reverent the formal "church" setting, the easier and better I am able to commune in my heart with God in worship.

June 13, 2004 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger Jaime H. said...

Oh, and I'm jealous of your cleaning!! :-) I experience a deep sense of joy when I am able to help care for the house of God by cleaning. It's weird, because I don't really like cleaning in other settings.

In the church where I am a member now, I tried once to vacuum and pick up after a particularly destructive youth group meeting in the sanctuary (another issue entirely), and I was called down for it and told that it wasn't my job and that it wasn't a big deal.

June 13, 2004 at 4:28 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I have experienced worship in all the extremes talked about here. For a few years, I went to 2 churches, an Episcopal church that was fairly traditional (I grew up traditional), and a dancing-in-the-aisles non-denominational charismatic church where people carry lattes from the espresso bar into the service with them. The week of the September 11 attack we had worship every night (already pre-scheduled by the work of the Holy Spirit, who knew we would be needing it.) That week, big areas of the church were cleared to make room for people to dance, a kids art area was set up along one side, right in the sanctuary, and easels for grownups were set up in alongside the stage area, and a microphone for people who wanted to read something from the Word. Our church is now decorated with the best of the art that was done that week, most of it nicely framed in simple poster frames. I also would have liked to have a writing surface! I had to sit in the back for that, out at the coffee tables. You can see this church at

I now meet with a group of friends who are trying to do church in a different way. We meet in homes, a few friends, coffee, Bibles. This group has a website too, Some, like me, are still doing traditional church, but the founders of this little group are doing nothing else (though they sometimes visit other churches on a Sunday a.m.)

I quit going to the Episcopal church because the gospel was not being preached (hard to preach it if you don't believe it) but in my heart, I think I had stopped being Episcopalian a long time before. More and more I think we would be better off without the four walls and the full-time clergy....

Have you looked a book called Houses that Changed the World (I think)?

June 13, 2004 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Angie Poole said...

An ideal church?

I'd like to see a church with members who see with the heart of Christ. Truth be known, I'd like to be one of those members.

A little background:

My dad was drug to church every Sunday as a kid. He hated church. Felt like it was a place where people acted religious before going about their regular lives during the coming week. Did I hit any nerves? Mine jingled a bit. At times I think my Christian walk is still at a crawl.

My dad didn't come to my baptism but he made it a point to come to my oldest daughter's. Grandchildren are different with him, praise the Lord. Since my youngest is only two, I imagine I'll see him attend church a second time in my lifetime.

As a kid, the Sundays I didn't spend at Sunday School or Children's Church, I spent fishing on Galveston Bay. If I asked Daddy about God, he told me what he knew. And he knew a lot. Years later, I'm still amazed at his knowledge of the Bible. I carried more than fish and sunburn home from our ventures.

With all this Freudian stuff out of the way, I suppose I'd like to see people helping people out of love for Jesus. I'd like to experience tears without self-conscieousness, I'd like to see prayer without judgment, I'd like to see visitors welcomed as who they could become in Christ rather than who they are in the world.

I've been visiting a tiny little church with my mother for the past few weeks. She's went to church, oh maybe five times in the past 31 years. Three of those times have been within the last month. When I say this church is tiny, I mean that with Mom, me, my husband, and our two daughters..we've tripled the church attendance.

I visited twice without my dh and I was really nervous about what he'd think. He loved it. He's been reading his Bible more and considering questions to ask the Bible teacher.

Mom thinks Dad would feel welcome there.

What do I want to find in a church?

I want to find Jesus.

June 16, 2004 at 12:10 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

We spent about four years looking for a church--attending here and there, but not feeling at home. Now we're in a church where we have a table just for journaling, Lisa! :o) I've heard that we often have to "detox" from church--from programs and systems, to be open to something new and fresh and let go of our preconceived ideas of church. I think that's what God did with my husband and I. I'm looking for community--a place where we are real, not a social gathering. A place where we share about God--our hopes, dreams, highs, and lows. I love going to church and singing with other believers and learning . . . but the church is truly Christ's body, not a place to go to. The church is people, not a system of worship.


June 16, 2004 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Angi said...

my perfect church?

One where all are welcome, and all are involved. One where petty disagreements are settled biblically, and not drug out and made bigger than they really are. One where the Holy Spirit has freedom to move and is welcome at the same time. One where the pastor can preach the Bible and not worry about who he made mad with his sermon.

I want a church where the congregation go to be with Christ, to learn about Christ, and want to hear the unadultriated word of God. Where they won't get their feelings hurt because the pastor "stepped" on their toes.

This church would be small, less than 100, and when someone is sick, or there is a death, all the congregations would show up, to help, to support, to just be there if they are needed.

I want a church that feels like family. Because as children of God, we are exactly that, family.

June 17, 2004 at 12:10 PM  

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