Where Church Is

September 20, 2020

It has been a long several months for us ‘church-going folks.’  We missed Easter in our beautiful buildings. We missed confirmation celebrations, Vacation Bible School on the lawn, weddings, baptisms, baccalaureates, celebrations of lives lived among us that are now gone, potlucks, winter sheltering of the unhoused, fundraising opportunities for community needs. All these worship opportunities, service opportunities, and opportunities to affirm the worth of God’s beloved creation come to mind when we recall gathering in those buildings both big and small; buildings with their stained glassed windows, wide open spaces, or both.  

It’s been a long several months……when will we get back to normal…….?  

‘Normal’ church was such a comfort, wasn’t it?  So predictable and safe. So Hallmark picture perfect in the special times. So warm and compassionate in the challenging times.  I miss walking into sanctuaries and being enveloped in the holy – just breathing it in.  I miss this ‘normal’.  

But it what I miss really normal? Is church in the box normal? Is constructing a building where people gather what Christ intended when He told the disciples to ‘go’?

We know the answer – we just forget sometimes.

What has become the norm within the context of Christianity is not what Christ intended in His words of the Great Commission. Matthew 28:16-20. Nor is it the norm for Christ’s church as expressed in His admonitions to those who call Him “Lord.” Matthew 25:31-46.

Funny how, sometimes, in the midst of the greatest challenges, God comforts us with the most profound gifts of remembrance, calling us back to the truth that is Christ and His intention for those who choose to follow Him.  One of those gifts – an unexpected gift of the pandemic – is remembering where church is.

To be sure, church is found in the amazing job pastors are doing keeping their congregations connected, worshipping, and praying together on internet platforms. They are doing a task of Herculean proportions and I am grateful for all of them and their hearts for their Lord and the people placed in their care. Worship may look different now, yet it is worship nonetheless – worship, that is, if we enter into this time with a worshipful mindset.

Yet, pastoral work alone is not enough; their work serves to help us make space for Christ’s work in us so that we become where church is. WE as to be the living, breathing church, empowered by the Spirit’s work in and through us to GO and be the church in the world – not in a building. 

So, I wonder. Where the church is right now? 

Well, I am finding church everywhere!

  • Church is found among medical professionals who tirelessly move beyond their already exceptional skill sets in order to sacrificially and compassionately care for the desperately ill and dying. 
    • They devote time, which could have been spent on rest and recovery for themselves, to comfort those who are dying and ensure that they don’t die alone. 
    • They persevere connecting medically isolated patients with family and friends by any means possible so that words of love might be shared one last time.
    • Christ called us to tend to the sick and dying; to comfort those who grieve – just as He did when He walked the earth.
  • Church is found in those times when people see each other as individuals beloved by God, rather than groups to be stereotyped, demonized, abused, and feared. 
    • Ironically these days, church is found when protestors and first responders interact with, rather than react to, each other in order to seek a common goal: a new and better tomorrow – God’s peaceable kingdom; where all are valued and respected for who they are.  
  • Church is found in the volunteer efforts of congregations who are finding creative ways to continue to meeting community challenges which would otherwise go unseen 
    • They checking on their neighbors and residents of assisted living homes; tutoring and encouraging younger children; expand food pantries and clothes closets. 
    • They seek needs and prayerfully become the solution. 
    • Christ taught about seeking the lost and the marginalized and caring for them without condition. Luke 15 only then do we have the privilege of calling Him “Lord”. 
  • Church is found among educators who are doing ‘whatever it takes’ to educate their students. 
    • Their ingenuous new methods of teaching work to lovingly help equip children to realize their unique place and boundless value in the world. 
    • They affirm and nourish children, as well as each other, in acknowledgment that all are precious and beloved children of God.
    • Christ says whoever welcomes anyone – particularly those who are as vulnerable as a child – welcomes Him. Mark 9:37
  • Church is found in our homes. 
    • Living in such close spaces is a new thing for so many of us as we are all used to being out and about – ‘doing our own thing.’  
      • Over the last several months, families have begun discovering new strengths and new gifts to be nurtured, as well as previously unspoken needs to be tended; now, even with the occasional familial bump in the road, many families are treasuring each other in a whole new way. 
    • Scripture calls us to love and honor our parents Exodus 12:20, and to cherish our children as a gift from God Psalm 127:3

Some might think I am taking liberties with the meaning of church, but I don’t think so.

Christ is the Head of the Church, Christ’s Body.  The Head tells the Body what to do.  The Body was never told to build a building and sit in it, but rather to GO and be the Body of Christ in the world.  

So…..who’s missing church?  No need to miss it, because – 

Church is anywhere Christ’s commandments are being lived out. Opportunities to be church are all around us as we become a part of Christ’s work in the world.

Where are we seeing church? How are we being church? There’s always room for more participation in Christ’s holy congregation!

And to God be the Glory!  AMEN.

Published by Pastor Catharine

Retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have a Master's of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry (with an emphasis on Spiritual Transformation of Community) from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

One thought on “Where Church Is

  1. What a wonderful and timely reminder that “we” are the church as the old song goes. And it seems to me there more opportunities to “be” the church now more than ever in so many different areas. Really empowering and really highlighted so well that ”waiting on church to start again” wastes countless opportunities to be the church. Thank you.

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