Friday, July 24, 2009
Friday Five at the Perfect Church
Singing Owl has posted an interesting Friday Five.
Please pardon me for talking about church in the summer when many of you may be on vacation. However, the church we are talking about today is the one you dream of. I've been thinking about this because I miss pastoring and preaching, because I am sending in resumes, and because...well...jut because. So have some fun with this. Tell us five things that the perfect church would have, be, do...whatever.
We can dream, right?----Singing Owl
Singing Owl has been without a church and is wondering what the perfect church is. This is hard for me especially when I am just coming off my “honeymoon” with my new congregation. This is not to say that my present congregation isn’t a “perfect” parish. And the comments I make should in no way be a critique of my present church. I love my bunch of Germans and Scandinavians. But I would answer this Friday Five after having served 7 or 8 different congregations in 3 different denominations. Some of them have been huge (over 7,000 FAMILIES) some have been quite small (36 Average Sunday Attendance). In church work, Size matters, in my estimation. It tells what kind of leadership strategies I must use. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION, matters—whether it is rural, small town, city, urban, suburban and Culture makes a difference too. And the following matter:
1. Humor: First a congregation must have a sense of humor or a sense of joy. I remember one church I served couldn’t laugh in church. They had never read the story of Baalam’s donkey, I guess. They couldn’t embrace a God who calls us to foolishness. It was a difficult call for me.
2. Honesty/ Integrity: A congregation must be willing to look at itself and speak its truth as a community. There are certain questions that one can ask in the interview stage that will help you figure out if the congregation is willing to be self-reflective enough to be able to own its own sinfulness, its own failings and even its own reservations about the Gospel message.
3. Welcoming/ Inclusive. A congregation or parish needs to be open to new people, ideas and different cultures. Of course they would have to be open to LGBT folks and different ethnic groups. I would love a church in which different faith traditions (not just denominations) could find a home.
4. Community: I need a parish that is sincere about the respect that they have for one another and act on that sincerity.
5. Sense of Liturgy—I don’t care what kind of music it offers; I do expect it to be able sing in harmony and with a sense of joy.
6. Bonus: My perfect parish needs to be willing to learn. I guess this could be a part of Welcoming and Inclusive but often parishes only want to be tended. I believe that parishes are to be willing to challenge their corporate faith as well as their personal faith. I agree with the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church who has said that personal salvation is the heresy of the modern Western Church.