[Springboard] [Oe List ...] Who/Where is the "Church" Today?

Nancy Lanphear nancy at songaia.com
Wed Mar 12 14:24:38 EDT 2008

Dear Randy and all,

Your emails have sparked a need in me to respond with a positive  
picture of the Church.  This does not intend to speak to the larger  
contradiction of the Church nor negate what is being said here by  
Randy. Jim and others.

Finding that our work community and our home community took all of  
our energy and passion,  Fred and I were "un-churched" for 17 years  
after we returned from India.  Now that we are "retired" we are  
members of an incredible Congregational UCC church near our home in  
Washington state.

It is a church with soooo many white hairs (including Fred's), and  
they are passionately involved in the church and in other eco-justice  
efforts.  Fred has just completed facilitating 2 groups of church  
folks in a series called Elders as Earth Keepers.  They have taken on  
the task of helping to establish the church to become a green  
congregation.  Our "bible" studies are held during the week and have,  
over the past 2 years, involved a high percent of the members, with  
studies such as  Opening the Box, Living the Question, Saving Jesus,  
and The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg.  Several times during  
the year the congregation does a series of sermons, the pastor  
becomes part of the congregation for the time.  We are quite active  
in the local ecumenical parish organization. We have recently decided  
to join the progressive christianity movement  and are, of course, a  
welcoming and affirming congregation. As we "speak", Tent City IV is  
living in our church parking lot.  This is a mobile community of  
about 100 homeless folks who move from church to church every 3  
months.  Some communities have not been happy with the arrangement  
which is the reason for the brief stay in each location.  These are  
just some of our activities - a lively and wonderful community!

You are loved,

On Mar 12, 2008, at 5:13 AM, R Williams wrote:

> Jim Wiegel's provocative statement that "the local church  
> experiment did not work" and the ensuing conversation has raised  
> for me the question, "If we were going to renew the church today,  
> what would we renew?  Who is embodying the dynamics Niebuhr  
> ascribed to the "church as social pioneer" and where would we find  
> them?  I believe the Springboard group has been struggling with a  
> similar question, relating it to the "guild."
> Many will remember the "bug model" of the local church which  
> delineates the internal life of the church in terms of worship and  
> study, and the external mission of the church in terms of charity  
> (priest) and justice (prophet).  I ran across the quotation below,  
> which points to where the external dimension is perhaps being  
> enacted.  It is reminiscent of Paul Hawken's book Blessed Unrest  
> where he discusses a plethora of "movements" going on around the  
> globe, which George Holcomb first called to our attention.
> The quote I share is by Gregory Baum, professor emeritus at McGill  
> University in Montreal, who played a role of some significance in  
> Vatican II.  The book is a compilation of articles entitled  
> Globalization and Catholic Social Thought and Baum's article is  
> "Religion and Globalization."  (I would not disagree with Kroeger's  
> statement about all the excess "baggage" in Catholicism, but I find  
> Catholic sacramental life to be very rich, and Catholic social  
> thought and theory, at least since the last of the 19th century, to  
> be deep and on target.)  Baum said:
> "[W]e are presently witnessing a multiplication of countervailing  
> movements, often organized transnationally, that promote issues of  
> social justice, the cause of peace, the emancipation of women, the  
> observance of human rights, and the protection of the environment.   
> These movements are in agreement that the present system defined by  
> neo-liberal capitalism and American empire is leading us to  
> humanitarian and ecological catastrophe...
> "The alternative movements for peace, human rights, social justice,  
> and ecological care create a new consciousness among the people  
> engaged in them.  Why?  Because they are organized according to  
> principles that are at odds with those operative in the dominant  
> society.  These movements are democratic and egalitarian: everyone  
> is allowed to speak; they uphold the equality of men and women,  
> which contests the patriarchal inheritance of society; and they  
> practise cooperation across boundaries, a spirit at odds with the  
> competitive spirit that drives contemporary society.  They also  
> make the participants conscious of their power to act as social  
> agents, against the effort of capitalism to define people as  
> customers and clients; and they generate solidarity across national  
> boundaries and facilitate transversal activities, involving people  
> internationally.  These alternative movements may well be the  
> training ground for the creation of an alternative global society..."
> While not addressing the issue of the symbolic life of these  
> movements, which I believe is critical if they are to be sustained,  
> this nonetheless sounds to me like something
> H. Richard Niebuhr might have said had he been writing about "the  
> church as social pioneer" today.
> Randy
> Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile.  
> Try it now.
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