by Ivy Beckwith
While Emergent is about many things – what it’s about is probably as diverse as the people who identify with us – one of those many things we are about is the church. Many of us are about figuring out what the church of the 21st century ought to be.
Right now I have an ambiguous relationship with the church. Since leaving my church position at the end of 2004 I have not affiliated with another community. I identify with the community that is Solomon’s Porch; I’ve attended my parents’ Presbyterian church in Florida; visited a church in Brooklyn where a friend is the pastor (will be there this coming Sunday); and celebrated the start of a new church in the area on Easter Sunday. But on most Sundays when I’m home in Minneapolis church for me has been coffee and the New York Times. And there has not been much I have missed about the church experience until recently. First, I found myself missing the Eucharist. Celebrating and participating in the Eucharist came to be one of my most meaningful ministry experiences in my last church. Repeating the words of the liturgy and feeding the congregational flock were experiences that kept me in the vicinity of God when I was ready to walk away forever. I came to understand the centrality of this rite to the church in a way I’d never seen in my liturgy free past. I sorely miss that experience.
And I’m starting to miss the community. I’m starting to miss seeing people on Sunday morning or evening and am starting to feel a little isolated because of it. Missing these 2 elements of church life will ultimately drive me back to more regular church attendance in good time.
But I must admit that every time I think about finding a new church home I’m stopped dead in my tracks by the question of “what church could I possibly go to?” I don’t ask this question because of a lack of churches where I live. I live in, perhaps, one of the most churched areas of the world. It’s a question of finding a church which resonates with my sensibilities of what the church should be all about (sensibilities that are more felt than delineated in a logical list) and where I am not asked to join in or reveal too much of myself too quickly. When I go back to church I want to be left alone for a while. Not many churches understand this.
I’ll go back to church eventually. The very fact that I’m entertaining thoughts of going back is progress. And I’ll continue to ruminate on (as will the Emergent leadership team in upcoming conversations) what do I think about church and what it’s meant to be in our times.