Monday, May 4, 2015

Around a Table

Recently I attended a church service for the first time in a year and a half. My wife and I were visiting another city and so we decided to visit a church we found on-line. Even though the church was small, no one seemed to notice our entrance, so we introduced ourselves to another couple. Service was beginning,  so we quickly took our the back.

The song service began. The theme  was love with readings from 1st John. Candles and subdued lighting gave it a spiritual "feel". Children were dismissed to children's church. A guest speaker spoke of a Haiti mission and exhorted people to get involved. There was an offering.  Then we were dismissed to have a nice week and go love one another.

Though I found myself resonating with the theology, I realized it was exactly like the church that I left and pretty much like all the churches I had ever attended. A passive a box.

I came to see that churches are just another box that people can choose to occupy.... or choose to leave as so many are doing. As I thought about it, I envisioned congregants as hamsters running in wheels with clergy providing pellets of music, oratory, and activities. We are reduced to waiting on pellets. It's an environment that fosters continuing dependence and passivity.

Many things contribute to this environment of dependence.  The centuries-old clergy-led laity model. The physical arrangement itself: clergy on a platform/altar space, often elevated,  facing a congregation that is essentially an audience. By definition, an audience is a passive recipient. Since we face the same way, we don't truly see each other. We remain isolated, unknown, and disengaged. No wonder that people are leaving.

What if we changed the arangement? How would we relate if when we gathered, we faced each other? If we saw each other? Perhaps around a table? It would foster a new relationship, a new dynamic! The Spirit of Christ living in each of us listening, interacting, encouraging, and empowering each other!

That's how it was in the beginning with Jesus and his disciples. They sat around a table. That's how it must be again. The church must adopt a new form which is really its oldest form: a table. We must see each other again. In so doing we will see the Image of God residing in our brother or sister. Then we will be empowered to live out our life in Christ.