Simple and captivating. Would those be the words you use to describe church? They could be, even if they aren’t for you right now. A church, after all, is no more or less than its members, members who organize a community around their faith and their spiritual practice. It is yours, and you are making it. A church’s purpose is to be a constant act of creation.
I have a friend whose spiritual practice is to write postcards to his friends. I’m lucky to be counted among them. Every month, I get at least one, sometimes two. What he writes is simple and captivating, a bit newsy and also reflective; his postcards are his gift of himself to me. I have every card he has ever sent me over the course of almost ten years. When he writes a postcard to me, and when I receive it and read it, we are having church together. I have been working on my spiritual practice of sending him a postcard in return. We are making a creative connection together. We are listening to one another and encouraging one another. His spiritual practice of making connection through postcard writing creates a state of happiness in me. His simple gesture of friendship captivates me.
We are church whenever we gather to create an experience which connects us to one another in the context of our shared faith in Jesus who calls us to love God and neighbor. Sometimes that gathering is for worship. Other times it is for cooking a meal and serving it to anyone in our neighborhood. It can even be gathering to give the hedge a much needed trim on a Saturday afternoon. All of these create community, the simplest and most captivating spiritual practice of the church.
Yet, our lives conspire to keep us from these acts of creation. We are well-bred consumers; that is to say—we have learned how to consume our food, culture, knowledge, power . . . We eat our lives and that makes us who we are. Consumption is passive, and we seek the path of least resistance. We are more apt to consume our identity than make it, which fills us with doubt: What if someone finds out we are not as cool as our shoes might lead one to believe? Consumption plagues our quiet lives. Yet, make something, and you will be filled with satisfaction, the kind you feel right down to your core. Church isn’t something the pastor makes for you to consume. Church is something you make so you and others can experience the love of God.
This month, engage in this simple and captivating spiritual practice of the church. Make a connection with others which invites them into community with you as a disciple of Jesus. Take a walk through your neighborhood and invite a neighbor to go with you; find out what your neighbors joys and concerns are; listen while you walk. If you like to knit, invite other knitters you know from church to join you for an afternoon of knitting. If you like to cook, invite someone to share a meal. When we come together with others and make the connections which create community, we can affirm the love of God and neighbor in each other. This is church. Try it out.