Between Two Worlds Day 10 (of 40)
“Front Porch Ecclesiology”
That was my first thought today as I read your comments to my post from yesterday. I too yearn for that time and the type of community where folks sit out on their front porches, neighbors stop by for a short chat, a glass of tea, or just wave as they ride by saying, “Hi, Mrs. Smith–looking good today!”
The word ecclesiology is just the fancy way of saying “the study of the nature and structure of the church. It comes from the Greek and Latin word ecclesia. I was first tempted to write a simplistic encouragement to the readers who still sit in the pews to adopt more of a front porch mentality rather than the “guess what our secret code is” that often gets portrayed and felt.
But I stopped short of going there. The reason: I think that whatever is emerging in our culture around religious and spiritual communities has gone far beyond the “If you build it, they will come” sort of philosophy. I no longer believe that formula works. I no longer believe that there are people waiting in the wings to see what the church might build before they decide to cross the threshold.
What I do believe is that many people in the community are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to their spiritual needs. I do believe there is a need for more front porch communities–places where we can gather informally to connect, learn, grow and enjoy.
- Carley writes of how her church formed a weekly coffeehouse worship and dialogue.
- For years I facilitated a Movies and Meaning group where we retreated to a pub or wine bar following a movie to discuss its philosophical, religious, spiritual, and political implications.
- Jen speaks of a Bible and Brews group that meets informally in homes.
- Mike writes that he is being more intentional about building community in the morning coffee shop that he ritually visits.
- Literally thousands of meetup groups have formed through social networking for activities that include everything under the sun including needlepoint, Christian social singles, hiking, music jam sessions, and stargazing.
This is all just a hunch. But whatever is emerging isn’t going to manifest itself by the old model where a church creates a program and the community shows up. I think the social contract that supported that model died at least one generation ago. “If you build it, they will come” is a great movie line, but not a successful motto for churches in the 21st century.
In the simplest terms I think we are looking at a new model where the greatest success won’t be the result of which side of these two worlds who gets it right. I think the greatest success will be when the two can begin to work together–where our deep religious traditions can bring their resources and emerging groups can bring their wild imagination and creativity.
But there is Red Sea-sized barrier that first must be acknowledged and chipped away at–TRUST!
I have spent more than twenty years trying to build bridges between these two encountering mistrust all along the way. I have kept therapists in practice as I sought to integrate these two psychic worlds into one identity. And I have flirted back and forth between them often feeling like I didn’t fully belong in either world.
I do believe, as your comments reflected, that we need more “front porches” in our communities. In fact I think most of us, despite our varying religious dispositions, yearn for it.
- Will we be able to work together to create more “front porch” spaces in our communities?
- Will the institutional church be able to trust the new forms which appear without feeling threatened?
- Will those with new imaginations and energy be able to trust the institutional church to support them feeling censored by them?
- Are these just pie in sky dreams from an idealistic pastor who doesn’t know any better?