Is church a building that some folks go to on Sunday, Saturday, Wednesday, or Friday? Is it a place or thing that some people love, some people hate, others avoid and others still can’t seem to find the ‘right’ one? Is it an experience dependent on the charisma of the pastor, rabbi, imam or sheikh? If you go to church, is it more or less vibrant based on your church’s integration with multimedia, unified singing, youth attendance, and location?
All these questions are certainly valid questions in their own right, and may be a part of someone’s decision-making regarding where to go to church. Church is the subject of great discussion among many, both in ecumenical and interfaith conversations. Many people have an opinion about church, often based on happy or sad memories.
But what about the actual presence of church? Could ‘church’ be something independent from all the boxes (and buildings) that people might try to throw upon it? Could ‘church’ even be an idea?
I believe it is.
In her textbook on healing, based entirely on the Bible and it’s message of God’s nature as divine Love, Mary Baker Eddy defines church as, “the structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 583) In this sentence, Truth, Love, and Principle are used as synonyms for God. So, rather than thinking of ‘structure’ as a limiting term, since God is infinite and unlimited, doesn’t this definition of church suggest that ‘church’ is really the living of, and dedication to, God, our dear Father-Mother?
So the problem with all those questions I started this off with, is that they scratch around the edges of some of the boxes people have put church in, but they don’t dive in to the heart of the matter. As an idea, the vibrancy of church really springs from the church we bring with us. In other words, if we go to church expecting entirely to get, we may end up only feeling like we’ve lost an hour of our day. But if we go to church looking to give that idea of church – or even better, give and live the idea of church wherever we are – then church is truly present, for us and all those we are with.
Carrying the idea of church with us also frees us from sad or harsh memories of church. As that “structure of Truth and Love,” it’s the presence of church which invigorates and inspires, and this presence allows any memories from the past to cease to have power.
So, whether you attend a church or not, I’d love to explore the idea of church with you – giving and living! I’d love to hear what church means to you, and how you’re cherishing that in your life.
I hope you’ll enjoy this heartfelt, uplifting example of the spirit of church, free from walls, time, and space! These joyful singers are really living their love for God. And isn’t that what church is all about, when we get right down to it?