Monday, March 26, 2012

Who is Church to me?

(Note- I'm using Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton as my Lenten devotional this year. I'll be blogging the journaling prompts most days.)

We must in all things seek God. But we do not seek Him the way we seek a lost object, a "thing". He is present to us in our heart, in our personal subjectivity, and to seek Him is to recognize this fact. Yet we cannot be aware of it as a reality unless He reveals His presence to us. He does not reveal Himself simply in our own heart. He reveals Himself to us in the Church, in the community of believers, the the koinonia of those who trust Him and love Him. ~Seasons of Celebration, p. 223

Who is "the Church" for you? In what ways do you experience God's revelation to you?

My home church's slogan is "We Are About Relationships". They're emphasizing that what's important about the church is not programs or buildings or anything else. It's the relationships we have with one another and with God that shape our faith journey, and things like buildings and programs have to be structured to contribute to the nurturing of those relationships.

While I love that slogan and absolutely agree with it theologically, I'm an introvert. So defining what "it's all about relationships" means for me is a bit more complicated than people I know who are extroverts, who've never met a stranger and draw strength from time spent with groups of people.

Furthermore, as a pastor, I spend a lot of my time helping others "do" church and "be" church for one another. And while I get a great sense of satisfaction out of this, most of the time I can't truly worship when I'm leading worship. This is the case for most pastors, at least the from what I've seen.

I have had some moments that are exceptions to that, and they are wonderful moments.

In theory, the Tennessee Annual Conference is my "church", because I am a member of the conference as opposed to being on the rolls of a congregation. And while I do find some great moments of deep soul-to-soul connection when I am with some of my colleagues, the gatherings of the whole conference are mostly about business, and even the times we worship together aren't always the most worshipful for me.

The people who are most fully "the Church" for me are my family. When I'm spending time with Jessica, Kate, and Claire, I feel the peace and love of God, even when the kids are acting crazy and trying our patience.

The most soul-edifying conversations I have are after the girls are in bed and Jessica and I are having a glass of wine and talking about whatever is on our minds, most of which ends up coming back to faith. Our relationship began as divinity students, and that's shaped how we've been ever since.

I hope that over time, particularly now that I've finished the ordination gauntlet and been welcomed as a peer with the other ordained elders and deacons, that I will develop some other relationships that constitute "Church" for me. But again, I'm an introvert, so developing and deepening those relationships is going to take a lot of intentionality on my part.

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