The Rev. Matt Cox, pastor, EastLake Community Church, 2734 La. (South Junior High):
The biggest factor in a place of worship’s identity is the people.
Church is actually not a building. It’s the body of people aiming to follow Jesus and serving and loving others. Whatever combination of bricks and mortar that shelter or surround that group is inconsequential.
Of course, when we treat church merely like some building to attend and not a family to be a contributing part of, that one service on a Sunday becomes the focal point of where we “worship.” But worship is so much larger than music or a 30- to 60-minute teaching on a Sunday. Worship is a lifestyle. Something or someone you truly love or worship shows up in every inch of your being, every day. You love it. You want to share it. You want to introduce others to it.
But for too long we have been perfectly happy letting everyone of faith view church as a building, institution or organization — a place where people can sit on the sidelines and consume until spiritually obese. But as long as it adds to our attendance number and they drop a few bones in the offering bucket, we’ll coddle the “me” circus and let everyone complain and form committees about unimportant things like the color of the carpet.
This is a direct contradiction to the organic, selfless family we see in the first churches in the book of Acts of the New Testament. Although every Christian will admit the amazing things God has done for us personally and eternally, at some point we need to take a step of true spiritual depth and maturity that turns our identity of worship from “What can God do for me?” to “How can I love God and others, especially those who have yet to learn about Jesus?”
— Send e-mail to Matt Cox at email@example.com.
Charles Gruber, member, Oread Friends Meeting, 1146 Ore.:
So my spaceship just happened to land at 1146 Ore. on a Sunday morning at 10 a.m. My orders were to change into human form and join the group of people gathered and report back to base.
The sign outside read, “Oread Friends Meeting-Religious Society of Friends (Quaker)-Welcoming, Open, Affirming.” I walked in to a very friendly small crowd that was settling into the pews and chairs. There was a small table in the center adorned with some lovely flowers. Also on the table was a Bible, a book entitled “A Call to Character,” a Quaker volume on “Faith and Practices” and a book called “Quaker Reader.”
Nobody was speaking and the silence was comforting. There didn’t seem to be anyone “leading” the group. There were a few children amongst the adults. They were led away after about 10 minutes to hear a story in the next room. As the silence “deepened,” a palpable vibration of “listening” was taking shape. After a half-hour, an elderly member recited a short Whittier poem. Things fell silent again.
At 11 a.m., at some unseen sign, people shook hands, saying “Good morning.” There were a few announcements concerning a meeting of the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice, a demonstration in South Park protesting the wars, performance of a play about inclusiveness and a discussion on the 350-year history of peaceful war resistance by the Quakers.
I changed back into my previous form and filed my report to the mother ship. The identity of this group, I communicated, seemed to be inclusive, intelligent, peaceful and sincere with a distinct lack of clergy. There was no apparent creed to adhere to and they seemed to genuinely appreciate each other’s company. I’m not sure what the “Quaking” was all about, although I suspect gentle ecstasy, subtle and joyous at the same time.
— Send e-mail to Charles Gruber at firstname.lastname@example.org.