By Jason Marsh
I was struck by this video from the Pope, which touches on a theme dear to my heart: focusing on ideology over Love.
It got me thinking about our churches and our services.
What ideology may be pushing people away from our churches? Here’s a few ideas:
– King James Version (old English) solely read from the desk
– Formalism of our Sunday service
– Musical instruments and solos limited to one style of music
– Inflexible membership policies
– Judgementalism around personal health care decisions
Some wouldn’t want to change our stands on these issues, but I think that each of these push people away from our churches. One argument is that we would prefer to push some people away: the purity of the movement is at stake. But really? Isn’t Love in Christian Science more important than the “grave-clothes of the letter?” Do we have the attitude to “…commemorate the word and works of our Master?”
We frequently get visitors at our church because of our central location. I sometimes see individual members speaking to a visitor individually. I see a sweet ministry in some of our members as they gently reach out, unprompted. This is no formal program or planned work. But it is each heart responding to needs.
I sometimes see guests sitting in a pew after the service deep in thought during our truly amazing postludes. I think they appreciate the peaceful haven. We just refurbished our church, and visitors remark at its beauty. Our membership is growing. 30 somethings are joining. We had no practitioners for many years and now have three, (And other non-listed ones too).
Church is in thought before it is in a building or in a program or in a service for that matter. It is not a one size fits all. Which is great. Each church will have its own unique way of reaching out. Sometimes I think more outreach is happening than we realize. When our thought gets in tune, we start to recognize where outreach is already happening in quiet ways.
Comments for Jason. This is a very interesting video. One takaway is that in our study and application of Christian Science, the form often dominates the sense of Love and compassion. It seems clear that more flexibility in the form of our thinking and especially the form in our services would make them more attractive and accessible to more people and the blessings that might offer.
To me, Pope Francis is expressing “The Simplicity that is in Christ” (2008 Annual Meeting theme – see Sept 08 Journal report @ http://journal.christianscience.com/issues/2008/9/126-9/the-simplicity-that-is-in-christ). The inspiring example he is setting points to the core teachings of Christ Jesus, who had no ideology, but taught love, purity, goodness, humility, forgiveness, gratitude, and joy and the “blessings manifold” (see Hymn 314) we can expect as his followers.
Loving the comments. It is always important for us all to see the Christ in action. Sometimes we expect more of our own church family than we do of a stranger. I love the humility and example Jesus gave us of washing one another’s feet. He showed them to cherish the Christ in one another as well as how they must give what they had learned to the community in which they traveled. The example he gave with his own followers was to “love the brethren.” 1John 3:14
A good reminder for us all to be constantly alert to the need to keep Spirit, Love, over form…and to any hint of temptation to repeat just the right words, thinking we’ve actually prayed. On another note, I appreciate the use of other versions of the Bible in our Christian Science services, sometimes, as this helps me to wake up
to fresh insights into very very familiar phrases, to deepen my connection to the
underlying meaning. Thanks for posting this, Jason!