The Rev. Janice Ford
The Church of the Reconciliation (Episcopal)
I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. People are searching for something to make their lives meaningful, and what they are coming up with is too often not worth the effort. Many people in their forties and fifties have written off the church they were raised in for a variety of reasons. Those in their twenties and thirties may have never had the relationship with a particular Christian denomination that “mid-lifers” typically did, so they feel totally disconnected. The reality is that with the possible exception of people sixty and over, many have simply given up on being part of any Christian denomination. Some have disavowed belief in God entirely because they confuse faith with denominational beliefs, when in fact one can definitely have the former without the latter. In other words, a person can believe in a creator God, as well as Jesus as God’s son and our savior, without belonging to a particular Christian denomination—mainline or otherwise. Perhaps that is the current draw to non-denominational Christian faith communities some people are experiencing.
Now, I have to say that this makes me a bit nervous and unsettled. I am, after all, a priest in the Episcopal Church. Though our denomination is nowhere near as strident as some, and is certainly not fundamentalist in any way, it is a sacramental, liturgical church that does have more structure in its doctrine than some of our non-denominational counterparts. I certainly don’t want to lose those things about our church that are theologically sound, or that enhance our relationship with God. However, I know that every Christian denomination needs to make some adjustments if it is to be relevant in the lives of average Americans today.
Here is what I know anecdotally about what people want in a Christian faith community: they want to feel they belong; they want to have an opportunity to experience God in a way they wouldn’t get in any other environment; they want help interpreting Scripture so that it is relevant to their lives; they don’t want a list of rules to follow outside of those instituted by God; they want to worship God and not the institutional church; they want to be assured that God loves them; they want to learn how to live a better life; and most importantly, they want a real, tangible relationship with God that will carry them from this life to the next.
Just as people are searching for a way to find all of the above, I am searching for a means to help provide it. I have no idea how or when this “way” will emerge, but I am anxious to start working on it. In the coming months I will say more about this work, here in this column, and via other means. Watch for it, because Jesus said, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
- Wednesday, 25 July 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Religion