I know a lot of believers who don't belong to a church community. There are a lot of reasons for this...many, but not all, of them resulting from a combination of these two themes:
- "I think the institutional church is a mess, and Christians are a bunch of hypocrites" (for many thoughtful reasons, and some based on untested assumptions or bad experiences) and
- "I can meet God as easily on a walk through the woods on Sunday morning...maybe more easily than in a worship service that doesn't feed me" (one part love of nature, one part frustration, one part consumerism, several parts institutional cluelessness, in my estimation).
- the experience of communal gathering around word and sacrament, and SINGING about it :-)
- intergenerational contact (which is less and less available in our lives with every passing generation)
- the opportunity to NOT act as consumers in one arena of our lives, but to "ask not what our community can do for us, but what we can do for our community"
- the ability to accomplish more as a group in mission than we can as individuals
- a place to work out the moral/ethical questions of our time (not to pontificate, but to really knock ourselves up against the hard stuff and try to understand it and fix what's broken)
- and MANY more things, not the least of which is the gift of knowing and being known...of having a group of people that gently reminds you that maybe (just maybe) you don't see all the boats...and it might be good if you learned to count 'em, to look more deeply at a question, to change your angle of approach.
I was particularly moved by Jed's nudging of Sam to "look at the whole board." To find as many well-thought-out perspectives as you can to a question. To incorporate as many pieces of truth as you can get your hands on, when you are making a leadership decision.
Of course, none of us can see the whole board alone. And that is why we need a community. There's a wonderful story in the Jewish tradition about how truth is like a giant mirror that was shattered at Creation, and now we each hold a piece of that mirror...a piece of the truth. The more pieces we put together, the closer we are to seeing a larger truth than that which we can hold onto alone.
I think that almost all of us are more like Sally most of the time, even when we want to be like Jed. It's certainly true for me, and the older and wiser (!) I get, the more grateful I am for community. And I pray that the church may be a place that lives up to that vision of community, in which everyone holds a piece of the truth, whether they're two years old or ninety-two, whether they're homeless or gay or poor or an immigrant or a person with an illness...where we recognize that the truth can only be fully realized if we commit to picking up all the little pieces and putting them together.
And where we remember that we follow a God who DOES see the whole board.