26 January 2009

If You've Moved Your Office To A Coffeehouse, Does That Mean You're Emerging?

We're out of internet at the Lutheran Center - apparently I used it all up stalking students on Facebook. KIDDING! Actually, our router and the whole darned network went out on Friday, so the planned upgrade this week just got redefined, from "would be nice" to "gotta have it." Since I
  • can't print,
  • can't email,
  • can't use the online worship planner I usually use,
  • can't download the form for my annual report to the bishop, and
  • can't do pretty much anything else;
I grabbed the old lappy, hopped in the car and headed out. Now I'm comfortably ensconced by the gas fireplace and getting ready to do all the stuff I listed above.

I know people who are doing exactly what I'm doing right now, only permanently. Rather than spend time building, renovating and maintaining a building, their congregations meet in various places, and their pastors spend a lot of time doing exactly what I'm doing today. In some ways, I envy them (especially when we're out of internet). They don't have to spend time recruiting folks to shovel snow, vacuum lounges, or clean bathrooms; they certainly don't have to come up with several thousand dollars worth of internet connections, since they're piggybacking off the locals who offer the service for free.

But I also know that there is something incarnational about being a worshiping community that has a place to call home. Abraham might have been a nomad, and David might have worshiped God in a tent, but God also "dwelt among us," and I think there's something to be said for having a place our faith community can call "home." The price we pay, of course, is vigilance in two ways: tending to the needs of the building, and avoiding the temptation to think the building is the church. Having a long-term home says, "We're not going anywhere: we're in this for the long haul." Being faithful isn't just about Bible studies and coffee shop conversations; sometimes we're faithful by being good neighbors, too, and it's hard to be a good neighbor if you don't know where you live.


  1. I love your last point a lot. The church I'm serving passed on serious consideration of selling its decaying building five years ago, because they couldn't imagine maintaining community without it, especially the Sanctuary. But we had our best worship since I've been there in the downstairs meeting room this week, where we are meeting to save on heat. They *could* have learned to do it; they could have. And they would be without the pressure to repair the roof, resolve the ice dams, repaint the shingles, etc. etc. Instead they could be focused on a different kind of mission to the community. It's sad.

  2. I think the current economy, combined with the mobility of today, is causing many people and industries to reexamine what it means to have place. Is 'place' a physical place or an emotional/ideological place? kind of makes one's head hurt to think about it. Me, I prefer a place to be a place that you can go to. Going to church always was something special - seems like that's the way its supposed to be, in a way.

  3. I said something last week in my sermon about congregations who are willing to die in a pretty building, and saw a few people flinch, ever so slightly. Our building is very, very pretty.

    "Place" is so important here. So important. And really, a lot of sacrifice went into having the place. (The men of the community dug the basement by hand. By hand!) I'm just not sure it is the kind of sacrifice that is pleasing to God any more.

  4. Like you I have friends with no buildings to worry about, but I must admit that your last point about buildings really resonates with me.

    When I move to Yorkshire where my new church is located their building is in the centre of the community, several groups use the rooms from Girl Guides to dance classes, on Thursdays they offer meals to the elderly folk in the community, this is incarnational mission.... and for me it is the way to go

  5. Hey Scott, enjoyed your post! I support your conclusion. I am just coming off 6 yrs on council, all of which I was an officer (pres and secr). During that time, we have increased the usage of our building a bunch. Two Korean churches without their own home now call our church home, and we are researching an after-school and preschool program. We also have a food pantry, and we are really starting to run out of storage space. I think by trying to serve God's people, we managed to turn ourselves into a community center, and we fully use one of our best resources (that is, our building). You just can't do that in a coffee shop!

    BTW, if you ever need help with the interweb, let me know. Housecalls to Iowa might be a stretch, but I fix the internet for my day job. :-)

  6. http://tinyurl.com/dg8ncs

    A couple of churches in Cedar Rapids have to face this fact now. The one in the link above chose to move on and demolish the church. I drive by it every day.