“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, July 05, 2004

What would the church look like?

What would a church that always includes all types of disenfranchised people look like?

What would it look like organizationally?

There would have to be many channels of communication set up and open to deal with the many isues people would have both as persons with problems and with persons with problems. Because some of those who are disenfranchised are used to "working the system" there would have to be ways of checking their stories to both have some level of stewardship over the resources of the church, for reasons of safety for the members (children and adults).
Communication would be imperative in supporting such people with their various emergencies.
Communication would also help the church leadership to keep on top of the needs of all members of the church, particularly those who are disenfranchised. Perhaps particular pastors, leaders or lay people would be the first points of contact through whom someone might become enfolded.

What would be characteristics of the people there.
Church members would need to come to church prepared for the unexpected. Church services might become a bit more unpredictable due to the social skills (or lack thereof) in the membership. But the people in attendance would be just a genuine as those already in attendance in regards to their desire to worship, to grow, to change. Their backgrounds, disabilties, etc., might cause them to come out of a different background, however.

Other potential characteristics might include,
fresh - a certain unpredictability might also bring freshness to the situation
unpredictable - when things are unpredictable, they require another whole set of skills. You become less brittle in the way you do things. You have a plan and a program, but it adapts with the situation. The flexibility which results is a good thing.
accepting - because you are committed to enfolding all types of people, particularly those whom society has often rejected, your level of acceptance expands. You begin to worry less about how someone dresses or looks or smells. The range of "normal" expands as you meet more people who are outside of what is typically considered to be normal. For example, a friend of mine with cognitive disabilities talks a little too loud during the church service (a service for largely white people in an affluent suburb). I visit other churches in other settings and I find that behavioral standards for churches are different. An African-American pastor once spoke at my church and wondered out loud whether the people were paying attention because they were so quiet.
full - the church would be full of both people who are disenfranchised and those who desire to serve those people.
ministering - to others would be the rule of the day. I remember Lake St. Church in Chicago which did include many disenfranchised persons who required a high level of service to be eligible for initial or ongoing church membership (I believe). Not an entirely bad idea.
needs met without programs - sure there would be many programs within the church, however, much of the work of the church which should be encouraged on a one to one basis would happen naturally. Programs are not to be disdained, however, individuals or families helping others independent of programs should be encouraged.
prepared for this role - obviously people would need to be prepared for this role. There would have to be discussions about what is appropriate or inappropriate within a Christian church setting. As and undergrad, I took a course in "contextual theology" the jist of which should be a must for all churches. Can you have communion without bread, or grape juice? I sometimes wonder whether churches believe you could. Could you have a worship service without a sermon? Could you have singing without people with microphones up front? Preferences which seem almost wrong, are often far more the result of cultural differences, or even what people have become used to more than something ordained by scripture.
character of worship would change - at times in church I try to imagine what the persons with mental retardation who sit next to me are thinking about what they are hearing. I listen to them sing the worship songs with the words projected on the screen and imagine how I would do singing those songs. If I look away from the words, I find I sound a lot like they do, remembering a few words when I sing. Obviously the entire character of the worship can't change to better include a few with disabilities, for example, however, I wonder what thought is put into planning for persons who are dyslexic or mentally handicapped, etc.
many would leave - finally, in such a church many would leave. They want their God to be predictable, and they want him to be worshipped in an predictable manner. Don't change the order of the worship, the songs sung, the version of the Bible, the social skills required, the way the offering is taken, or to some extent who they have to sit next to. If the church really started bringing in everyone, many would leave because I honestly believe that there are those who don't want everyone there. In fact they would rather have particular persons not there then have their familiar worship experience disrupted.

More on this later.


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