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Thinking the Faith, Praying the Faith, Living the Faith is written by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship.

Thinking, praying, and living the faith is at the core of ministry in the Office of Theology and Worship. In the following videos, learn more about what thinking, praying, and living the faith means to the leadership of the Office of Theology and Worship. Discover why it matters and what difference it makes in our lives, work, and worship.  

Charles Wiley  
Barry Ensign-George
David Gambrell
Christine Hong 
Karen Russell

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September 26, 2013

Something's Needed--Open Wards?


    

     We might actually agree on something: the church needs . . .  something.   And we’re frustrated by our confusion about what that something might be. 

       In response to our last blog posts, we got a great email from someone who went to a Presbyterian seminary, served a Presbyterian church . . . and now teaches history in high school.   With permission, I quote from it:

      I grew up in a Dutch Reformed church in The Netherlands.  After I came to the US, I joined the PCUS, being the closest church to what I grew up with.  Surprisingly, that church, or its replacement, is no longer here either.  The Presbyterian church in my little town closed its doors because of the people's racism.  They just could not accept blacks in the building.  The closest Presbyterian church that is listed on the denomination's website no longer exists either.  Oh, it is still listed but now it is a different denomination that meets there.  11 o'clock on Sunday morning is still the most racially divided hour here. 

    What I find interesting today is that almost all churches I have attended in the last few years since my retirement find that I am too old to be of any use.  Age discrimination and racial discrimination is alive and well in the church.

    The church I grew up in welcomed everybody.  The church I find here today welcomes only people like itself.  Since I came from a different country, and my wife is from a different part of this country, we are not made to feel welcome in any of the ones that are here.

     Why do we stay home?  Could it be that it is because the church of Jesus Christ does not exist here?

Although we had a lovely exchange of emails, I don’t know all of the particulars of where he’s coming from either geographically or psychologically.  I do know that his story is not unique.  And I lament that, as I suspect you do, too, or you wouldn’t have read this far.  Although our multicultural and ethnic churches are growing faster than any other in our denomination, we have a long way to go.  And with all our desire to cozy up to young people, we dare not forget about older folks in the process.  They often have more time and energy and interest to give than any other age group in the church.  Everyone has gifts to share with others.  Are we welcoming them?   For that matter, how welcoming are we, period? 

     I've also heard from a moderator of a presbytery, who loves our church, but she writes wistfully:

I am a Presbyterian elder and while my minister does give a great sermon, sometimes I feel like we are hearing the Word, but not putting the Word into practice.  Oh yes, we have a full schedule of activities, for all ages, but there is still "something" missing!  If I may venture an opinion, we are so busy with "programs"  that "spoon feed" us , but I think we need to have more small groups that can really wrestle with the issues that affect our Christian lives, that will help us make better decisions and be stronger in our faith.

     We all want church to be our own ideal place of spiritual growth where we encounter God.  This is what we have in common.  Exactly how we can have that while in communion with one another is where the problems begin.  After all, God comes to each of us in ways that we each need in order to grow in faith.   But individual attention to individual needs is only part of Christianity. Our Lord enters into covenant with individuals for the sake of a people.  

     A hospital is a great metaphor for the church, as Barry Ensign-George says, but a hospital is there to heal individuals, and Christ came to redeem and bless the whole world, creation included, not just individuals.  Perhaps the church is more like group therapy, or a hospital I know in London who went back to open wards for heart patients after it was discovered that individuals heal faster when they are with one another than they do when they are in private rooms.   This seems so wrong to us individualistic Americans who know how annoying it is to have to listen to someone hack all night in the bed next to us.  Hardly conducive to healing, we think.  Yet for those who converse and commiserate and receive empathy, the benefits outweigh the annoyances IF the roommates know that they're in the same predicament.  Perhaps this is a clue for the church. We forget and fail to acknowledge that we share the same predicament: all of us are sinners in need of Christ's radical grace. 

     Yes, we all need Something/Someone, and that includes being willing to see ourselves as sharing the same predicament as our world's roommates: we all need grace and a welcome place where we can each heal together and together help God heal a broken world.  Can we make space in our privatized lives for one another, as God has done for each of us in Christ?  This, as Christopher Joiner says in his blog, is part of what’s great about being Presbyterian.  On our good days, when we have the integrity to be who we say we are.    

Tags: church, church hospital, grace, hospitality, sin, what's good about being presbyterian, why i don't go to church


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