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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday Festival: Church

Today's post is by Pastor Julia, who blogs at Faith, Grace and Hope.

I’m at the Big Event 4.0 with the RevGalBlogPals and we’ve been discussing how to define “church”. As you may guess, most of us write blogs, among other things, and we’ve noted that our blog traffic isn’t limited to the people whom we see in our places of worship.

Knowing that we don’t want to limit our audience (really!), then we’ve been trying to figure out what to call the people with whom we converse through electronic media, but whom we do not see in the pews.

In other words, are the electronic spaces “church”?

What is church?

There is something to be said for the face-to-face interaction, the bodily presence together, sacraments experienced in the flesh, the sharing and mutual hope for God’s peace.

On the other hand, there are people who have been hurt, who struggle with doubt, who cannot yet step into a sanctuary precisely because it does not provide sanctuary (as it were). Yet these brothers and sisters have something to contribute to the community of believers.

If we limit the definition of “church” to the space inside a building that occupies a specific address, that is too fine a point. Nevertheless, we cannot dismiss the importance, even the longing for, interaction in person.

The Incarnation, that is God among us in Jesus, helps us to understand our need for interaction and congregation in the flesh. Even the most introverted among us longs, occasionally, for the consolation of company.

Electronic church is real and cannot be dismissed. The bounds of electronic church demonstrate the need for fellowship, collaboration, support, debate and exegesis that define some of the best parts of the Christian faith.

So many words in that last sentence need defining: exegesis, Christian, faith, fellowship. We argue about what they mean and does a particular word mean to me the same thing that it means to you?

And, I think, that’s one of the best definitions for church: a place where one gathers with others and knows the love and presence of God, through the indescribable means of conversation, shared burdens, and the Spirit.

Sometimes that happens in the church and sometimes church happens.


  1. This is most stimulating -- I went from BE almost directly to national Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue for 72 hours (I had just learned to say "Hola", and bang, I was back to "Bonjour")...where the topic was, largely ecclesiology, and the usefulness or not of koinonia language in definitions, descriptions, prescriptions of WHAT IS CHURCH...
    Talk about a shift of gears! I did point out tactfully that other sections of the [koff] "ecclesial community" were talking about VIRTUAL church...I saw the whites of a lot of eyes at that one!

  2. One of my potential DMin projects (very potentila since the whole idea of doing a DMin remains in its infancy) is on being church in a technological world. I think it would be an interesting thing to explore

  3. I just saw a FB post from a wonderful friend who is reading a book on spirituality & religion for 21 century people: the book "is for those who are turned off by organized religion but want to deepen personal spirituality."

    She is emblematic for me of the person I hope we can reach.

  4. "that’s one of the best definitions for church: a place where one gathers with others and knows the love and presence of God, through the indescribable means of conversation, shared burdens, and the Spirit."

    Love. This. Thank you.

  5. I especially like the last line of this post. Sometimes church just happens. I never cease to be amazed.

  6. I, too, like the comment that sometimes church just happens. How many times are we having a conversation, sharing a task, or an activity and suddenly, there is as sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit? At times like this, our conversations deepen, our tone becomes hushed and reverent because we know that something is different, we realize that out activities have become shot through with the divine and koinonia (church) has "happened". It isn't something that can be manipulated or manufactured, it is nothing more than pure unadulterated grace, no matter where it happens, in virtual space or "meet" space.

  7. Virtual friends at Revgals, meet a virtual friend and IRL Pastor Clint. He is writing about just this thing. Church in Second Life


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