I am praying for the laity and clergy of the Mountain Sky Conference as we prepare to join together as the body of Christ on Sunday.
I love church buildings. When Robin and I travel, we always stop along the way to dash into a church. I love the smell. I love the way the light dances across the altar. I love the way the pews are worn down from generations of worshippers sitting, squirming, and (if we’re honest) sometimes even sleeping.
But there are things that concern me when I visit churches. Sometimes I wonder: is the church more of a museum these days (with very limited hours) or a mission outpost?
There was a time when the church building was the only community space in a town, so it was a vibrant gathering space. People knew it was the safe home to go to when the place you lived wasn’t safe. People came to find solace as well as challenge as they deepened their discipleship. They came to dream of ways to put their faith in action, to be a healing force for those who were hurting, a movement for justice for those who experienced oppression and injustice, a place where the redemptive love of Christ was experienced in tangible ways.
But times change. For many, the church building that served us so well in the 1920s now feels like an albatross around our necks. The roof leaks. The heater is on its last legs, and it feels like we are serving the building rather than it serving us. Each year it feels as if a greater percentage of our budgets are going to building upkeep than ministry programs.
COVID taught us that vibrant ministry can happen without a building. In fact, we in the Mountain Sky Conference are now worshipping more online than in person.
What does this mean for the future church? What will we leave the generations that will come after us? Someone was thinking of us when they broke new ground, although they couldn’t imagine the world we would currently inhabit. What is the new thing we need to create, for the sake of our children’s children? How will we shape a church that is less a museum of antiques and more a place (whatever that place might look like) where wounded souls find healing and peace through the love of God?