To Be or Not to Be “Church”
In this week’s Alban Weekly post, The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck, asks a question without a subject or verb. “A Place at the Table?”
This is a forward-looking post that reveals an emerging vision — a vision that our little congregation has been living since, oddly enough, we were denied “a place at the table” within our own denomination.
She points to experiences where non-church entities demonstrate their willingness to work with the Church on projects that would benefit all. Collaboration.
Why is this a surprise?
The Church has trouble collaborating even within Church structure. Every congregation, church agency and institution is an island. All come together once a year to report to one another, but otherwise we all have independent leadership, missions and funding needs. We are more likely to find collaborative partners outside of church structure than we are within, where everyone looks out for their own mission interests.
The 21st century is incompatible with historic Church ways. The world around us changes faster than we can keep up. Where once we related only to family and community, we can now connect with people of similar interests all over the world.
We could spend time regretting the loss of a cozy, tightly defined past—or we can join the as yet to be defined future. Maybe we can help define it!
Fischbeck nails it:
We would need to explore how the structures of our own denominations and judicatories help and hinder us for such collaborations. We would need to examine our attitudes, our pride, our theology, about profit and non-profit, about collaborating with those who do not share our faith, about compromise. We would need to have conversations and prayer, discovering, cultivating, and assessing ways for the Church to be a part of such innovative conversations and solutions.
Imagine you are an ordinary good-hearted citizen—the type that self-describes as spiritual but not religious. You care about others. You want to good with your life. You want to be as effective as possible. What would lead you to choose to enlist in a church’s mission? We must be at the table to communicate how we care just as they do.
Secular philanthropy is better positioned to serve. It has a much bigger well to find funding and volunteers. That makes it harder for churches but not impossible.
Rising generations care about effect. They are less inclined to follow tradition for tradition’s sake. A lot of today’s Church dialogue is drowned out by the static of how things were and should be. Reality? That’s another story.
2×2 has experience. The last eight years have been difficult. We were getting along fine. Not without problems, but fine. We had a well-defined mission and action plan. With the lure of property and endowments up for grabs, church leaders sighed “We just don’t see how you can continue.”
They couldn’t see what we lay people were starting to see. Our future would be brighter if we started networking with community.
With doors locked and bank accounts frozen, we started to work with what we had—connections in the community. We expanded by using the internet. We discovered that people are willing to work with churches. We started working with government and local institutions. We found experts in various fields willing to donate time and talent.
Fischbeck’s ideas are our experience. If our little church can do this without any ordained leadership, imagine what churches with more than we have can do with networking (evangelism).
Time to be part of the world.
The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck is the founding Vicar of The Church of the Advocate, an Episcopal Mission in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.