This week Ron and I spent a number of our conversations dreaming about the perfect worship space for our congregation. It's difficult to describe this process.
I was raised in West Michigan. Steeples, pews, pulpits, hymnals; these are things I've come to expect of any worship setting. Ron was raised in a variety of contexts around Chicago. From WillowCreek, a megachurch in Barrington Illinois to a small Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs. Together with our own personal preferences we're learning that often, Christians who have been raised in the Church throughout their lives, expect a certain structure and posture upon entering a worship setting. To say it plainly, they want what they like.
But what about those who have never entered into these spaces before? What about people who have been deeply hurt by the Church in the past? What about people interested in the Christian faith from other faith traditions? What courage it must take to enter into a space that feels so different to them - how uncomfortable.
We know that worship experiences also change culturally. I was thinking through this recently with a colleague who does significant work with hispanic church planters. He explained how frustrated his planters are with the line, "We believe in the holy catholic Church," found in the Apostles Creed. He explained, "These pastors coming from our latin countries have ancestors whose lives were threatened by Catholic crusaders. In the church I grew up with, there is a painting of a solider. In one hand he carries a cross and in the other a sword. You can see why it's difficult for these Christians to even utter the phrase catholic Church, let alone profess their faith in it."
As a Reformed Christian, I know that we're invoking a greater sense of the whole Church on earth when we confess our faith in the holy catholic (read universal) Church. Yet, I wonder, how can we also profess the truth of this great witness while also creating spaces of healing and reconciliation for those who carry with them a sense of distress or pain from past trauma caused by the Church? How can we make a place for people who experience God through different cultural understandings? How can we make a space for different sounds, songs, hearts and voices to be lifted high - so that the greatest melody of all, brought forth through God's Holy Spirit, might resound and reverberate the walls and roots of our faith community.
As Ron and I continue to think about where and when this church will launch, we're hoping to prepare a place for the people of God, new to the faith, or turning back toward the way of Christ. We're learning how to look through the eyes of experiences vastly different than our own. We're praying that the Spirit will continue to work out in front of us - because this work, is very, very challenging. As you continue to pray for us, please lean into what a space might look like. Let's pray for it to be affordable, to have enough parking, to be multi-purposeful, and to be a space to foster courageous healing. Hope. And most of all, pray for a worship space that we, as a body, can gather to raise high the name of our great high priest, Jesus Christ.