Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pondering "the Church"

The Castor Oil Tree is a place, like Jonah, to sit and ponder. One of the things I 'ponder' under my tree is the nature and the future of the Church. I have lots of concerns about the Church's future--economic pressures, the weight of hierarchy, how to live out the gospel in a multicultural world, how to be 'the Body of Christ' in a time when the Church is mostly irrelevant to the culture and and world as it is. Stuff like that.

I've been working lately on Sundays in the Middlesex Cluster--4 churches in Northford, Higganum, Killingworth and West Brook--that seek to live into and lean into the vision of a prophet named Roland Allen, who dreamed a dream of what he termed "total common ministry", which turns out to be a vision for the Church in our time.

Wesley Frensdorff was the Episcopal Bishop of Colorado back in the 70's or so and a disciple of Roland Allen. The just retired missioner of the Middlesex Cluster shared this with me and I want to share it with you. It was written during one of Bp Frensdoff's gatherings of like-minded folks.

Ponder it.

THE DREAM by Wesley Frensdorff

Let us dream of a church....

In which all members know surely and simply God's great love and each is certain that in the divine heart we are all known by name.

In which Jesus is very Word, our window into the Father's heart; the sign of God's hope and design for all humankind.

In which the Spirit is not a party symbol but wind and fire in everyone; gracing the church with a kaleidoscope of gifts and constant renewal for all.

A Church in which....

worship is lively and fun as well as reverent and holy; and we might be moved to dance and laugh; to be solemn, cry or beat the breast.

People know how to pray and enjoy it--frequently and regularly, privately and corporately, in silence and in word and in song.

The Eucharist is the center of life and servanthood, the center of mission; the servant Lord truly known in the breaking of bread. With service flowing from worship, and everyone understanding why a worship is called a service.

Let us dream of a church...

with radically renewed concept and practice of ministry and a primitive understanding of the ordained offices,

where there is no clerical status and no classed of Christians, but all together know themselves to be part of the laos--the holy people of God.

A ministering community rather than a community gathered around minister,

where ordained people, professional or not, employed or not, are present for the sake of ordering and signing the church's life and mission, not as signs of authority or dependency, nor of spiritual or intellectual superiority, but with Pauline patterns of 'ministry supporting church' instead of the common pattern of 'church supporting ministry',

where bishops are signs and animators of the church's unity, catholicity and apostolic mission,

where priests are signs and animators of her eucharistic life and the sacramental presence of her Great High Priest,

and deacons are signs and animators--living reminders--of the church's servanthood as the body of Christ who came as, and is, the servant slave of all God's beloved children.

As I've typed this I realize that is so dense and so profound that I can't do it all or ponder it all at once. So I'll stop there.

More to come, with some commentary. Two more posts at least....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.