Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter 4 when we realize the dogwoods are about 2 weeks early

I'm seriously overdue for a post. C'est la vie.

This afternoon was the monthy Open Air Chapel service. Beginning Easter Day we moved the location of that outdoor worship to the sidewalk leading up to the front steps of the church. Today was our second service at that location.

Inside the church, L'Eglise Baptiste Haitienne was in full swing of worship. Outside, at the bottom of the steps up into the church we had our little portable altar (really a food service cart - how appropriate!) and a hardy band of five, in very chilly, gray, cloudy, threatening weather, out under the sky, saying Eucharist together.

Across the street, in the park, a man on a bench watched from a distance. As we were getting ready to begin, a man and a woman walked up and asked us about what we were doing. We invited them to stay but they declined, saying they were just interested.

Cars came down the hill of Bedford St., and around the corner of Mott avenue, some of them slowing down to catch a glimpse of what was going on.

As the worship leader, I was aware of competing with the sound of traffic, but not fazed by it.

And I thought, "Remember the vision that brought you into ordained ministry in the first place?"

The vision was of an orange peel, turned inside out. As I reflected on that vision over the years, much like Julian of Norwich reflected for twenty years on her initial visions, I came to understand this as a metaphor of what I was being called to midwife the church to be.

At one point I even fleshed out that inside-out orange peel: It is as if the baptized people gather inside a church building only for the purpose of gathering to leave together. They say a prayer for the endeavor, line up behind the cross, and then, all of them, clergy, laity, everyone, singing some hymn or other, begin to process behind the cross, down the aisle of the church, out the doors, and into the community, where, on the front lawn, or in front of the courthouse, or in a park or wherever outside, they make Eucharist in public.

I came to understand that we need to get outside of our buildings, literally. We need to be focused on the community around us, outside our church building walls, and we need to be taking our worship out into that community every Sunday.

Lots of people, mostly clergy types, have tried to tell me that this vision is just a metaphor for the people going out into the world after worship to live what we have done inside the building. I disagree about that meaning for this vision.

We have been inside our buildings for eons now. For a long time we could just sit there and expect people to come in the doors, making church inside buildings possible. In some places this is still happening, and good for those people.

However, between that vision and the places I've been called to serve in my short eleven years as a priest, in those places, those communities in which people are not flocking to churches, it is time to literally get outside of ourselves and outside of our buildings. Take it to the streets. All of us. I wonder, if we did that, every Sunday, if the baptized would realize what it means to take the gospel out of worship and into their daily lives. I wonder if we made a vision, a metaphor, concrete, it would deepen spiritual lives.

I wonder if, when we finally realize God has no interest in saving dying churches nor in saving institutions, but rather in gathering us into parthership with Him/Her in the mission of reconciling love in the world, we might truly become living images of Jesus's words to the disciples: "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
(John 12:32)

1 comment:

Barbara said...

...and I think we can do this 'inside out' thing. We have a beginning. Let us continue.