All along, we have known that we didn’t want to do church in the classic way. We often say that we don’t simply want to attend church or go to church, but we want to BE the church embodying love in our neighborhoods. Our desire has been to be a part of how God is refounding the church in the context of the neighborhood, and we are truly passionate about this.
So many of the prophetic voices of our day from social justice activists to community developers, theologians, and on-the-ground practitioners have the same message. Across the diversity of their experiences and contexts, they are convinced that being incarnational in our places is absolutely essential if we are to participate in God's work of reconciliation in the world. We must be love embodied. For we are called to be the body of Christ for a reason. We are meant to to be family, community and a dwelling place for God's presence. And yet, the church is so very fragmented today and must be re-membered and fit together in the context of everyday life.
I am convinced that we must create new forms of being the church that don’t continue to perpetuate the consumerism, individualism and fragmentation of our culture, but that form us in another way. The way of Jesus, the way of love and generosity, and the laying down of our lives. There is another way to live. It is the upside down, subversive way of the kindom that Jesus proclaimed in the radical teachings of the beatitudes that spells out what it looks like to love God and neighbor. This way of love that is impossible to embody outside of the context of community and proximity.
And more and more, I am realizing that I am an evangelist at heart. Not in the traditional sense of getting folks to pray a prayer. But I want people to know the beauty and the goodness of our God. And so many people today do not know this. They are turned off by the messages of religion. They have been harmed in church. And they are seeking something real, something meaningful and beautiful and true.
And so I am passionate about creating fresh and authentic expressions of church that invite those who are currently not in church, whether they are the dones or the nones or some of us who don't know how to be a part of a traditional church. I want to help create places of belonging, hospitality, and formation, where the gifts of the community are activated as we are pulled into a bigger story to join in God’s healing work in the world.
And so I feel the Spirit continuing to invite us to be an incarnational community rooted in the neighborhood. We are longing to be a community that is embodying the presence of Jesus in flesh and blood and living out a way of love that is compelling. I believe that our form of church must be congruent with our values and our mission. For it is true that the medium is the message. Because of this, we are discerning that we want to move our gathering away from the traditional Sunday morning (with all of its inherent meaning about what church is) to sacred gatherings around a dinner.
For we want to create communal spaces that form us around the teachings of Jesus and a way of self-sacrificing love. And we also want to create hospitable places where our neighbors, friends and coworkers can explore their questions and doubts and experience the extravagance of God's goodness and grace. We are also increasingly convinced that the Spirit is at work in our neighborhoods. And we believe that the way forward is to continue to innovate and to pioneer new and yet ancient ways to reclaim faith and community in a time of such fragmentation.
“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.” -Henri Nouwen
by Jessica Ketola