What is Church For?
The fall learning circle of the 2021-2022 Integration Year ended last week. Three students in the final year of their diaconal ministries studies spent a week pulling together all they’ve learned in their program and discussing the interaction between various theologies and doctrines, the impact of their global perspectives experience on their understanding of diakonia and their own ministry, and how to tell the stories of their call/vocation and how they’ve grown over the course of their studies.
One activity, in a session on ecclesiology, had the students brainstorming responses to four questions:
- What was church?
- What is church?
- What is church for?
- What does church do?
Here are some thoughts from the Integration Year students. It’s interesting how the same question asked with a slightly different focus generates different responses. You’ll see a healthy mix of optimism and realism in their answers. What are your responses to these questions from your own experience?
What was church?
- a movement
- social expectation
- the only thing to do on Sunday
- a social life
- where you learn Christian traditions
- a free place to learn to read
- an idea
- where people questioned who God was
- a place of security for radicals
- a social safety net
- story-maker, story-keeper
- a networking opportunity
- judge and jury
- where pain was inflicted
- the only place to hear organ music
What is church?
- a space to learn about and deepen faith within community
- a lot of good intentions
- a place to start grassroots movements
- a place for all to find power (positive or negative)
- a moral compass
- a bastion of colonial racism
- a political counterpoint
- a nest for all ages
- inward looking
What is church for?
- to reconnect with community in an intentional way on a regular basis
- to acknowledge and thank God together with others
- to talk about and nurture faith in a safe place
- to care for the widow, orphan, foreigner, neighbours
- a field hospital for broken people (but not too broken)
- a place for new growth
- to learn
- to understand the world within/without
- to bring the Kindom
- one’s own comfort
What does church do?
- lets people feel they are part of something bigger
- challenges us and helps us to grow
- supports members of the congregation
- spends time fearing death
- drives people away from God
- tries to conform to a middle class lifestyle
- manages real estate
- leadership development
- sparks wonder
- counts differently
- upholds rituals and traditions
- helps make meaning
- cares directly and indirectly
- transforms itself